I’m not a big fan of the two-day format the Breeders’ Cup went to a few years ago, and the biggest reason is that this race — which I will always think of as the Distaff and not by this ridiculous new name — deserves to be run on the main card right before the Classic. In fact, this year it should be run right after the Classic because this is a much better race than the main event — at least on paper.
The distaff division has been more competitive and impressive than the older horses have been for a few years, and the race is always deep and interesting. This year’s edition is perhaps even deeper and more competitive than we are used to. The defending champ, Royal Delta, is back for another piece of the action after opting out of the Classic last week, and she is facing a packed eight-horse field that includes two undefeated runners, the only horse to beat the defending champ this summer, and the last two winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
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This is like the all-star game for distaff horses, except unlike in all-star games all the participants here will actually be trying. Here’s a breakdown of the field in post position order with some 2012 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic betting predictions:
1. Grace Hall (10/1) - the good news is that she was a solid second in the Juvenile Fillies last year, has won three graded stakes this year, and has trained well up to this race. The bad news, though, is that her wins have come when she has ducked the main competition and gone to lesser races out of the spotlight. Against the best of her class she hasn’t measured up. She could get a piece, but I don’t see her beating this tough field.
2. My Miss Aurelia (4/1) - She won the Juvenile Fillies Last year and is unbeaten in six career starts, but these odds are far too low. She has only run twice this year while struggling with a shin injury. In her last race — her only graded stakes race of the year — she only beat three horses, so she hasn’t really been tested. At 8/1 I’d really be intrigued, but at this price I’m tempted to look elsewhere.
3. Class Included (30/1) - This is an interesting longshot. She has only run at Emerald Downs in Seattle and Hastings Park in Vancouver, so she is making a massive jump in class here. In 16 career starts, though, she has 10 wins and six second-place finishes, so she is a gamer who is consistent and never quits. This is probably too much to ask, but I’ll probably throw her into an exotic just in case.
4. Questing (4/1) - She came over from England last year to finish fifth in the Juvenile Fillies, and then she stayed over here for her three year old season. It was successful, featuring two Grade 1 wins, including a dominating nine-length victory in the Alabama at Saratoga. She runs about as straight as a drunk drives, though, and often finds trouble. That could be a big issue here against a deep and talented field, so I am hesitant to pick her to win despite her obvious talent. She’s definitely a Top 3 horse in the field in my eyes, though.
5. Awesome Feather (3/1) - This impressive four year old has 10 wins in 10 starts, including the Juvenile Fillies in 2010. The concern is, though, that she has only run twice this year — in January and September — and neither win came in a graded stakes. She also only ran twice last year, so health is a major concern for this horse. She is obviously capable of winning, but I am concerned by the lack of racing. With so many horses at low odds you can’t afford to bet them all, so I’m going to throw her out and hope for the best.
6. Royal Delta (9/5) - The defending champ is out to do it again — something only Bayakoa was able to do in 1989 and 1990. The horse tried to tackle the boys in the Dubai World Cup and it was a total disaster — she finished ninth. Returning home to face the girls, though, she has been dominant. She has three wins and a second, and the last win — the Beldame at Belmont in September — was as easy and dominant as a win can be. Mike Smith took over from Jose Lezcano as jockey after the Dubai debacle, and he seems to be a better fit for the horse. He certainly fits this race well after having previously won it with Zenyatta, Azeri, Ajina, and Inside Information. She faces a huge challenge here, but she’s the best horse in the field with the best Breeders’ Cup jockey there is on board. Therefore she’s a deserving favorite and clearly the horse to beat.
7. Include Me Out (15/1) - At this price this is a very attractive filly. She has won a Grade 1 on this track, and she has four wins in six starts this year. Jockey Joe Talamo is red hot at Santa Anita right now. She had a nice layoff after the summer, came back with a solid performance late in September, and has trained well since. I don’t think she’s good enough to win if everyone has their best day, but she could certainly pick up the pieces at a nice price.
8. Love and Pride (8/1) - The last four winners of this race when it has been run at Santa Anita have previously run in the Lady’s Secret, a Grade 1 stakes at Santa Anita that has now been renamed the Zenyatta. Love and Pride won that race at the end of September. She also beat Royal Delta two races back at Saratoga. She’s obviously capable. My concern, though, is that she has run the best race of her career two races in a row, so she could be due for a letdown. She’s also a speed horse that will face a contested early pace — by Questing, Grace Hall, and perhaps even Royal Delta — and that could be too much for her. I’ll respectfully pass on her.
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