By: Michael Domabyl
Race #3: The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (Dirt – 7 Furlongs) 3 YO+ Fillies & Mares
Purse: $1 Million
A bulky field of 13 kicks off the Breeders Cup portion of the card on Saturday. Championship action hits the scene bright and early this weekend in Lexington as the Filly & Mare Sprint goes as Race 3 on the program with an early post of 11:50 AM.
There will be no sleeping in when it comes to the early speed in this race as many contenders like to do their work on the front end. Two of the principal speeds are drawn to the inside with Slammed (#1) and Edgeway (#2) likely to want to get away from the gate quickly. However, they should have plenty of company as horses like Hot Peppers (#10), Lady Rocket (#12), and even Echo Zulu (#13) are expected to take on enterprising tactics to get over from their wide draws. The last of those would be the only of the potential speeds that I could endorse on the win end. Echo Zulu returned off a six-month layoff to comfortably win her prep for this in the G3-Dogwood. She has the potential to take a step forward second off the bench and has always shown a ton of talent throughout her career.
The high probability of a fast pace could present some issues for the morning line favorite Goodnight Olive (#8). This filly was comfortably dominating overmatched fields for much of her career, but after exhausting her conditions, the connections took a big shot in the G1-Ballerina and were rewarded with an emphatic victory. However, she got a dream setup that day over a main track that might have been tilted in her favor while avoiding the kickback that her rivals were buffeted by. I don’t envision a scenario where she’s able to work out that same kind of journey on Saturday, so I’m willing to let her beat me.
Many will default to Ce Ce (#4) who attempts to defend her title in this race. Her victory last year came in a less than stellar rendition of this event especially considering favored Gamine ran well below expectations. It’s always exciting to see a defending champ, but I wonder if she comes into this stronger edition of the race in slightly worse form.
I’m looking at a couple of entrants that can come from the clouds and run down what presumes to be a tiring field. Obligatory (#7) has consistently shown to have a devastating closing kick when she gets pace to run into. Both of her last two defeats came in races with slow or moderate paces over tracks that arguably were carrying along front runners. To see that phenomenal closing kick on display, look no further than her back-to-back wins on Derby Weekend in the 2021 G3-Eight Belles and 2022 G1-Derby City Distaff. The one concern is that many of her best races have come over that Churchill strip and she was noticeably flat in her one try over the Keeneland surface last fall.
One more closer that could get into the mix at a big price is Chain of Love (Jpn) (#6). While she might have a ways to come in terms of her TimeForm ratings, she’s another that would appreciate a war on the front end. Japanese connections have risen to the occasion on the world stage over the past year or two notably notching multiple Breeders Cup wins at Del Mar last fall. This mare wasn’t beaten much against the boys in the prestigious Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan back in March, beaten a head for show money by Dr. Shivel who ran 2nd in the Breeders Cup Sprint last year.
With so many potential ways to go in this competitive field, this race provides handicappers plenty of options to kick off their Breeders Cup Saturday in a big way.