By: Eric DeCoster
Race #8: The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Turf – 1 Mile) 2 YO Fillies
Purse: $1 Million
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf nearly always guarantees a tough, evenly matched field that leaves us handicappers pulling our hair out. This rendition is no different, with 14 of the best two year old fillies across four countries set to do battle Friday afternoon.
Leading the U.S. charge is the top three finishers from last month’s G3 Miss Grillo S. at Aqueduct. #5 Pleasant Passage (12-1 ML) scored under a heady Irad Ortiz ride that day, but benefitted greatly from a turf course where backing up wasn’t allowed. #4 Free Look (5-1 ML) is the lowest price on the morning line from that New York prep and for good reason, as she pressed Pleasant Passage but was unable to overtake her in the no passing zone. Before that she scored strongly in start number two at the Spa. #6 Be Your Best (8-1 ML) could be the best look from the Miss Grillo with her effort. It was an even performance mitigated by the circumstances – she didn’t gain or lose any ground on the leaders over that surface – but her efforts in her first two starts very much impressed. I look back on her win in the Listed PG Johnson S. at Saratoga two back as a race that if Be Your Best can return to, she’s a winner in here. #9 Delight (6-1 ML) is the lone runner in the body of the field who exits the local prep, the G2 Jessamine S.. She benefitted from an aggressive Luis Saez ride that saw her coast on the lead and have more than enough in the dying stages to win by 5 lengths. The pace situation feels a little murky with no true U.S. speed but a couple from Europe that we’ll touch on, but if no one goes with her again it might be game over.
The top three finishers from the G1 Natalma S. at Woodbine make an appearance in this field. Just like the Miss Grillo, the winner of that race is the highest price on Nick Tammaro’s morning line. Unlike the Miss Grillo, however, I can easily see #3 Last Call (20-1 ML) being the best of her trio exiting the race. She did take the overland route in the Natalma and avoided trouble, unlike her counterparts who did get stymied slightly at the top of the lane. But, #2 Cairo Consort (12-1 ML) and #11 G Laurie (12-1 ML) both technically got first run, had ample time to make up ground on Last Call, and couldn’t, so I see the winner of the Natalma as the safest bet amongst those three.
Over to the Euros now, where #10 Meditate (4-1 ML) has more than earned her morning line favorite title in here. She’s dropped her last two decisions but has been chasing home her continent’s best with fury and at the end of the day is probably the most talented in this race. Her biggest issue will be covering the two turn mile she faces for the first time, and physically she doesn’t really strike me as the type to relish these conditions. That’s in addition to the fact her trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has really struggled to bring one to the winner’s circle in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. #10 Midnight Mile (10-1 ML) is lightly raced with only two outs but has never been beaten and has very little to knock. She clawed home going 7 furlongs in the G3 Oh So Sharp S. last time and it’s clear to me she will get better going this distance. The key will be making up ground in what is a relatively murky race shape, as she’s a deeper closing type, but if there’s something to come at she’ll be there. #7 Spirit Gal (20-1 ML) sticks out in a big way and could be a major price. As good as her form may be, her replays were really what separated her as a contender when analyzing this bunch last week. She is an extremely strong galloper who has the pace to go along with early U.S. speed, in addition to her clear able to withstand a longer race. Last time out she dealt a blow to future group stakes winner, Cairo, going 7 furlongs and punched through the wire emphatically with plenty to spare.
The Choice – #7 Spirit Gal
This filly with less recognizable connections has taken all the right steps in her most recent outings and feels primed to peak in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Ricardo Santana Jr. picks up the mount and I think his aggressive early style will be of great benefit to this filly with strong early pace. She doesn’t need to necessarily lead, but being forward into the first turn will be an asset she will put to good use. I’ll back her up with who I believe to be the best stateside, #6 Be Your Best, who is much better than her last start. Finally, #9 Delight will probably factor into my tickets on the chance nobody goes with her early and is able to replicate her Jessamine effort.