2017 Breeders' Cup Distaff Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
It's an interesting edition of the Breeders' Cup Distaff this year. There are some very good horses here, but there is no superstar in the field. Beholder and Songbird have retired. Legends like Royal Delta and Zenyatta are long gone. This race promises to be as good as it always is, but the approach is different this time. It's not about worshipping the current goddess of the sport but more about breaking down a small but deep-and-talented field.
We can look to history to guide us in this race. This is not a place for long shots. Forty two percent of these races have been won by favorites, which is solidly above expectations. More significantly, 24 of 33 winners have been 5/1 or less at post time. Bettors have been good at spotting the best horses, and those horses have done their jobs. Bill Mott, who has Elate here, has won this race five times with four different horses, so he obviously needs to be watched. The fact that Elate is a three-year-old up against some good older horses here might concern you, but it shouldn't - three-year-olds have won a very solid 10 of 33 editions of the race, and at least one three-year-old has been in the exacta every year since 2010.
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Here's how the best of the Breeders' Cup Distaff sets up this year:
Stellar Wind, 5/2: She was a little bit disappointing last year finishing fourth in the Distaff and this year was clearly focused solely on coming back here and doing better. This is her third shot at this race. Last year she got a bad start and never really recovered. In 2015 she was second but had a truly crazy trip. She raced just three times this year and was a heavy favorite each time. She didn't disappoint, winning Grade 1 races at Oaklawn, Santa Anita and here at Del Mar. She didn't dominate any of the races, but she was always professional, and she beat solid fields and proved she likes the track. She'll enter here off a 97-day layoff, which is a mild concern - it would be the longest layoff ever for a Distaff winner - but it was a plan and not an accident. I respect her, and she should get a solid trip here, but at the price I'd rather look elsewhere.
Elate, 3/1: Mott's filly was mostly forgettable for the early part of her career, but she had one heck of a summer to change that. She was a solid second in the CCA Oaks behind Abel Tasman, who she will face again here, and then absolutely dominated the Alabama at Saratoga and then the Beldame at Belmont at the end of September. She's a beast in top form, and she showed she can maintain it by firing a bullet in a work on Oct. 20. Her improvement plus the Mott connection makes it very tough to look past her. The biggest concern is that those factors will see the price fall too low, but at the very least she has to be an active part of your exacta considerations.
Forever Unbridled, 4/1: This is another five-year-old mare that, like Stellar Wind, is very lightly raced this year. After finishing third in the Distaff last year she was rested until June when she won a Grade 2 at Churchill. Then she followed up with a Grade 1 at Saratoga at the end of August. I find it a little harder to get excited about this mare than about Stellar Wind - in large part because I don't think she's quite as good. I'll pass at the price.
Paradise Woods, 9/2: This three-year-old filly has only run six times in her career - all this year - but there is a lot here that is intriguing. She won her last race at Santa Anita at the end of September convincingly. She ran at Del Mar before that. It didn't go well, but she did train all summer at the track so she has familiarity on her side. And she's a frontrunner who is likely to get a free trip up front since Stellar Wind, the one most likely to follow her, isn't going to be aggressive. Coming off her best race with a dream trip on a track she knows well? Sounds like some potential value at the right price.
Abel Tasman, 4/1: Baffert has seemingly half the field in the Classic, but he is taking a shot here, too. She won the Kentucky Oaks and followed it up with two more Grade 1 wins, but she was very underwhelming while finishing second in the Cotillion as strong favorite last time out. She has worked well since, though, and the talent is real. Baffert doesn't always have his best day at the Breeders' Cup, but I like his chances this year. This filly feels a little forgotten in this group, and that could prove to be a mistake for bettors.
Champagne Room, 15/1: Some people might convince themselves to back last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, who won at 34/1. Don't be one of those people. She was underwhelming in February in her three-year-old debut and then was on the shelf until late September when she won a totally meaningless race at Remington Park. She's training well, but she's just not ready for this spot.
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