By Eric Solomon
This year’s Distaff features a potential field of eleven fillies and mares, including an Argentinian based filly, a Japanese based mare, and nine horses based in North American lead by a mare that started her racing career in Mexico City. Letruska will be a short priced favorite in this contest, based off her sterling 2021 campaign which includes six wins, four of them coming in Grade 1 company. She has beaten several of the contenders in this race during her tremendous run this year, which has been good enough to mention her in the conversation for horse of the year. This will be her biggest test yet though, as she and three other horses have been first or second at first call in their last several races.
Horologist, Private Mission, and Shedaresthedevil all do their best running when they’re on the front end, so the post position draw will be critical in this race. Letruska proved that she can stay the 9 Furlong distance if she’s pressured on the front end when she battled all the way home in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga in August. She’ll likely be tested every step of the way at the end of a demanding campaign. She’ll be on my tickets, but there is definitely the potential for value to be had by looking elsewhere. She is as game as they come, but she will likely go into the starting gate at odds of 8-5 or lower. If the track is playing fairly, or front end speed is not doing well, I’d be inclined to try to beat her, or at the very least, spread a little bit in the multi-race wagers.
Chad Brown sends out a pair of five year old mares that have been in very good form of late. Royal Flag and Dunbar Road were third and fourth, respectively in the Personal Ensign, less than a length behind Letruska that day. Both ran credible follow up races in their next start, with Royal Flag dominating the Beldame, and Dunbar Road chasing home Letruska again in a game effort in the Spinster. Dunbar Road might offer the best value in this race, as she hasn’t won a race since the Delaware Handicap in 2020. She ran a brilliant race to be a troubled trip third in this race last year behind Monomoy Girl, and her last two indicate that she might be rounding back into her better form at the right time. The pace scenario should be much more favorable for her in this race than it was last out at Keeneland.
The one that might get the jump on all of them here is the three year old filly, Malathaat. She has been unraced since winning the Alabama in August when overcoming a stumble at the start. Her only career loss came in the CCA Oaks when she found herself in the unusual position of being on the lead in a paceless, four horse race. She’s been her best when she’s running from off the pace, and she looks to sit the same kind of midpack trip that she sat when winning the Kentucky Oaks in April. Her speed figures will likely need to improve to win this race, which is certainly possible for a three year old filly at this time of year.