The race of the year for this year's Breeders' Cup - at least on paper - is the Distaff. It's not even close. The Cup was designed so that the best of the best could race to see who was really the best, and that's just what we have here. It's a dream field. Songbird is the best three year old in training - of either gender. She's never lost, and she's never even really been tested, but she's never faced older horses, either. Beholder has won two Breeders' Cup races, including this race in 2013, but she hasn't been her brilliant self the last two times out and has missed the last two editions of the Breeders' Cup due to fever. Stellar Wind was last year's three year old champion filly, has beaten Beholder twice in a row, and would be the favorite in this field in almost every year but this one. Curalina, I'm a Chatterbox, Forever Unbridled - all great horses that wouldn't be shocking winners at all.
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What a race! It's only an eight-horse field, but it is arguably as deep and impressive a race as we will see this weekend. Here's how it shapes up:
Songbird (6/5 on the morning line): It's not that Songbird has won 11 races in a row. It's that she has never even been in a tight race - her narrowest margin of victory is just short of four lengths. There are typically five lengths to the second, so in eight of her 11 races there hasn't been anyone within a second of her. It's just remarkable. Her speed figures aren't the best in the field, but they haven't had to be because she's never had to burn a match down the stretch. She's a freak. I'm not that worried about the older horse factor, either - 10 other three year olds have won the Distaff before, so age doesn't seem to matter as much with fillies - in part because they mature faster than colts do. This will be the test of her life, but I have no good reason to doubt what she is capable of. The Distaff is great at producing magical moments, and a Songbird victory would rank right up there amongst the best.
Beholder (5/2): Racing is a harsh sport. At this time last year Beholder was being looked at as the biggest threat to American Pharoah in the Classic until she got sick and missed the event. She had won six straight at that point, and she won her first two of this year as well. Since then, though, she has come up short in three straight races, and the star has dimmed significantly. In one of the three he was beaten by California Chrome, and she still beat Dortmund, so there is no real shame in that. In the other two, though, she has been beaten by Stellar Wind, and she just hasn't been good enough down the stretch. She's still a great horse, and she has won both this race and the Juvenile Fillies, so she knows how to shine on this day. I fear she's a step beyond her best, though. It's not that she isn't still fast and dangerous - her speed figures are strong and she has worked great lately. It's just that at her best she refused to lose - like the greats do - but that urgency has dimmed somewhat, and often when it's gone it never comes back. She should be a big piece of it, but she's no better than second best at this point in her career.
Stellar Wind (5/2): Last year she was second in the Distaff by just a neck as a three year old, and she was the champion three year old. In five career starts at Santa Anita - all graded stakes - she has four wins and a second, with the most recent coming over Beholder. Her season was designed specifically for this race. She is likely to be the third betting choice, and if bettors lock in on the Songbird-Beholder duel angle then she could represent some value. At this point I think she is the most likely to finish second, and she could easily win.
Curalina (12/1): Like Stellar Wind, she is a four year old daughter of Curlin. There is nothing wrong with having that blood in your veins on Breeders' Cup day. She was third in the Distaff last year, so she has the class to compete. She has never been west of Kentucky, though, so travel is a concern. She runs her best off a layoff, though, and this is her first start since the end of August. She'll need to have the race of a lifetime, but the price should be right to at least play her as part of your exotics. She likes to mix it up with the early pace, though, and so do the three horses ahead of her on this list, so the race shape is a concern for her. She's part of what makes this race great.
I'm a Chatterbox (12/1): The likely fifth betting choice in this race has won four Grade 1 races and won the last of those last time out by seven lengths. This field is ridiculous. Her race two back was a disaster, but the ride was lousy so I don't really blame her. I don't think she's as fast as the rest, and since she prefers to be with the pace that's a concern. I'll likely pass on her, but only because there are so many options here.
Forever Unbridled (12/1): Again, we have a horse that has won two Grade 1 races this year that is going to be a relative long shot in this tough field. Crazy. She's very good, but she feels like a step below the best.
Land Over Sea (30/1): The first six horses here were much more impressive than this one. She was second in the Kentucky Oaks this year, but the three year old has been lousy in three outings since. Trainer Doug O'Neill isn't always the best at picking spots for his stakes horses. I will not lose sleep about tossing this one.
Corona Del Inca (30/1): This is a five-year-old Argentinean mare making her American debut. She won her last as a big long shot, and she hasn't raced since May 1. She's been training at Santa Anita for a long while now and has looked pretty good, but she's jumping into the deep end and it's hard to imagine that she's good enough.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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