2014 Breeders' Cup Distaff Predictions and Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 10/28/2014
I was very excited about this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff because of one horse: Beholder. She was one of the two or three best horses pointed at the Breeders' Cup, and I was looking forward to using the defending champion as a single in exotic tickets. But then she spiked a fever, and we'll have to wait until next year to see her again. Now the race is suddenly a little less interesting, but it's much more wide open.
Here are six of the more interesting options in the field. Before we get to that, though, there is a trend that we need to look at. There have been seven winners of the Distaff at Santa Anita in the past. Five of those seven have come out of the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita - which was formerly known as the Lady's Secret. Beholder won that race this year - again - with Tiz Midnight and Iotapa rounding out the top three in that race. No race on the card has a bigger home-field advantage - except perhaps for the Turf Sprint - so you need to pay special attention to geography when handicapping this one :
Untapable (5/2): The Kentucky Oaks winner and likely Distaff favorite has raced only twice on the West Coast. She was a disastrous eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall after a very troubled trip then stuck around to run in the Hollywood Starlet in December but was an uninspiring third. It seemed at that point that there wasn't going to be much to see from this filly. Then she turned three and unleashed a spring to remember. She won two prep races ridiculously easily, dominated the Kentucky Oaks, and then won the Mother Goose in arguably her best outing yet. Then her connections got cocky and sent her against the boys in the Haskell. She had a bad start, never recovered, and looked outclassed. She returned to female company in the Cotillion and returned to winning ways as well - though not as dominantly as she had won in the spring. At her best she would win this race as an afterthought. We haven't seen her best since June, though, and that is an eternity in the life of a three year old. I like her - her style suits the race, and she is working very well - but I'll be concerned about price.
Close Hatches (3/1): Last year this filly was a distant second to Beholder in the Distaff. That was her only loss in seven outings, stretching to August of this year. She was on a roll and would have been a strong favorite here. Last time out, though, she had a very flat fourth-place showing as the 1/5 favorite in the Spinster at Keeneland. Now we have to determine if we can just ignore that early October outing or if it was a sign of issues. She hasn't worked as sharp as I would like since, but trainer Bill Mott has won this race five times, so I can hardly question his approach. She's a huge factor here - no worse than second best.
Belle Gallantey (6/1): This late-developing mare had run in 39 career races before making her graded stakes debut in June at Belmont. She has made four graded stakes starts in total and has developed a predictable pattern - a no-show followed by a win. She was fifth in the Ogden Phipps in her debut and then won the Delaware Handicap. Then she was irrelevant in finishing sixth in the Personal Ensign before running away with the Beldame by eight lengths at the end of September. By that trend she is due for another flat performance. The times she has won she hasn't faced Close Hatches, and that filly has won both of her losses. She could be a big factor, but I sure would feel better if she had demonstrated consistency at this level.
Don't Tell Sophia (5/1): If you look at this six-year-old mare's record in total she is a very solid horse. On dirt when the track is fast, though - as it is most likely to be on Breeders' Cup day - she is a beast. She has 12 starts in such conditions and has nine wins, two seconds and a third. A six year old last won this race in 1998, though, and this mare doesn't seem to have the speed figures to mess with the best horses here. She is also trying West Coast racing for the first time. I'll respectfully pass on her, I suspect - though she could be a useful play in the bottom half of exotics.
Iotapa (6/1): This mare is coming into this race out of the Zenyatta - a big mark in her favor as we discussed at the start. More intriguingly, though, this will be her second race after a layoff of almost two months. She has consistently shown that her second race off a layoff is much better than the first, so she could be sitting on a big one. Trainer John Sadler is incompetent at the Breeders' Cup, though - winless in 31 tries. Tough to call, but impossible to leave out of your betting.
Tiz Midnight (10/1): That second-place finish in the Zenyatta was the first-ever stakes race for this lightly-raced four year old. She broke her maiden on this track and has run here four times, so she'll be comfortable. She's also fast out of the gate and is going to be looking to set the early pace. She isn't a great fit on paper because of her inexperience, but she has obvious talent and could take a step forward here. At this price she'll be tempting.
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