ARCADIA, Calif., Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The Breeders' Cup World Championships kick off Friday with six races, capped by one of the weekend's toughest.
In the last of six championship races on the Santa Anita Friday card, the $2 million Ladies' Classic, two of the eight starters are undefeated. Yet even those perfect records are not good enough to make either of them the favorite in the race.
Awesome Feather is 10-for-10, including a win in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. My Miss Aurelia, a 3-year-old, is 6-for-6 and beat older fillies and mares in her last start.
Nonetheless, the morning-line favorite is defending champion Royal Delta, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly who has three wins and two seconds from six starts this year. Her only misfire was in the Dubai World Cup back in March on a night when none of the American horses could do much more than spin their wheels.
Royal Delta, trained by Bill Mott, drew the No. 6 post for the 9-furlong race in which no one is likely, on form, to fall too far behind the pace. Jockey Mike Smith will look for a comfortable pace-stalking position for Royal Delta behind such speedsters as Questing, Awesome Feather and Love and Pride.
Love and Pride is an improving 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly who beat Royal Delta by 1/2 length two starts back in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Questing finished second by a head to My Miss Aurelia last time out in the Grade I Cotillion at Parx Racing while conceding 7 pounds in a race with a short field and a slow pace.
The others, Grace Hall, Include Me Out and Class Included, all have talent but would need to move ahead a notch or two to challenge for the win in this tough heat.
"We're just happy to be part of this," said Chad Brown, Awesome Feather's trainer. "What we're in the racing game for is a race like this."
The other Friday Breeders' Cup Championship races:
$2 million Filly & Mare Turf
A dozen are signed on for this 1 1/4-miles heat over a turf course that promises to be quite firm. Complicating the handicapping issues are three starters whose last races were in England or France. Several others also have European racing history.
Heading the list is Ridasiyna, once-beaten in five starts and winner in her last outing of the Group 1 Longines Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp in Paris. The Motivator filly is an Aga Khan homebred, trained by Mikel Delzangles and benefiting from Christophe Lemaire in the irons.
The Fugue comes to California for trainer John Gosden off a narrow second-place finish behind Shareta in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks in northern England. The Dansili filly has been improving steadily. Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien has had much success in the Breeders Cup and is represented here by Up, a Galileo filly who finished fourth in last year's Juvenile Fillies Turf, then returned to American to fade from the lead and finish sixth in the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington this summer. She may be a notch below the top ones.
I'm A Dreamer has ventured out from her English base to win the Beverly D. and then got home a close fourth in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, run over a yielding turf course.
Heading up the formidable U.S. squad are Nahrain and Zagora, who finished 1-2 in the Grade I Flower Bowl, and Marketing Mix, who finished second in the Beverly D. and then ran a nice prep over the Santa Anita course in winning the Grade I Rodeo Drive on Sept. 29.
An interesting addition to the field is In Lingerie, a 3-year-old Empire Maker filly making her first start on the turf. Her connections selected this spot over the Ladies' Classic. "Any way you slice it, it was going to be tough," said Aron Wellman, president of the owners' syndicate. "She's worked well here over the turf in the last two weeks, which sort of convinced us it was the right opportunity."
$2 million Juvenile Fillies
Three of the eight starters in this 1 1/16-mile race are undefeated. But, as befits 2-year-olds, question marks remain about all three and it's possible the favorite in this race will be the twice-beaten Beholder.
Beholder, a Henny Hughes filly, made her first start on the Santa Anita dirt in an allowance race Oct. 4 and won by 11 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 108 -- 20 points higher than any figure ever earned by any other filly in this event. The knock on the Richard Mandella trainee is that she has never attempted two turns and one of her defeats came when she was caught late in the 7-furlong, Grade I Del Mar Debutant. Mandella had the option of running in the Juvenile Sprint. "I think she'll handle it," he said of the two turns. "The money is better and there are championship implications if you win the Juvenile Fillies."
The undefeated trio, however, includes the winner of the Del Mar Debutant, Executiveprivilege, who went on from that race to win the Grade I Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita by 6 1/4 lengths for her fifth win without a loss. Kauai Katie comes from the East Coast with three wins from three starts, all at 6 furlongs or less. Dreaming of Julia is unbeaten in three starts but was all out to win the Grade I Frizette at Belmont by a head, going a one-turn mile.
All the others in the Juvenile Fillies exit races on either grass or all-weather tracks.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf
Good luck here. There are 14 in the main field and another pair on the also-eligible list. Five come directly from Europe.
The best of the bunch on form is Sky Lantern, a Red Clubs filly who has three wins and two seconds racing for trainer Richard Hannon in England and Ireland. She won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland in her last outing, going 1 furlong shorter than Friday's 1-mile distance. Waterway Run, a Pennsylvania-bred Arch filly, won three of her four starts in England against lesser rivals.
Watch closely if Infanta Branca draws in from the AE list. The Henrythenavigator filly doesn't have a great record but she is stretching out for the first time, and is trained by Aidan O'Brien. Henrythenavigator finished second in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita and his progeny are having an excellent year.
Watsdachances raced in Ireland in the spring and has won both her U.S. starts, including the Grade III Miss Grillo at Belmont a month ago. The second- and fourth-place horses from that race, Sustained and Tara From the Cape, also are in this field.
Spring Venture is 3-for-3 at Woodbine in Canada but steps up in class. Nancy O was improving on the Woodbine turf before being eased over the Keeneland all-weather surface in her last race. Moonwalk, Kittens Point and Summer of Fun finished 1-2-3 in the Grade III Jessamine at Keeneland in their last race.
Among the locals, Flashy Ways won a sprint at Del Mar, then came back to win a minor 1-mile stake over the Santa Anita turf, earning a decent Beyer figure but drew the ugly No. 13 post position.
Again, good luck -- at least beyond Sky Lantern.
They come from as far afield as England, Ireland, Peru and Argentina to take part in this 1 3/4-miles test of stamina.
Two puzzlers are Fame and Glory and Sense of Purpose -- Euros who have never before raced on anything other than grass. Fame and Glory in particular has been a top-shelf competitor for years and his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, doesn't ship horses internationally unless he thinks it might be worth the trip. At this time last year, Fame and Glory was winning the Group 2 British Champions Long Distance Cup at 2 miles over the grass.
Eldaafer won this race two years ago at Churchill Downs and finished a good third in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in his last outing. Commander has won six straight at western Canadian tracks and could lead the field at least into the stretch.
Almundena is a Peruvian-bred who recently raced in Argentina and Calidoscopio is a 9-year-old Argentine-bred who raced in his home nation.
Worth Repeating and Not Abroad also are worth a look in a field where few have been asked to go this far in the past.
$500,000 Juvenile Sprint
With Beholder and Kauai Katie both running in other races, this event is left with seven starters, including one from England. All have credentials.
Merit Man, a With Distinction colt, is 2-for-2 and won the $100,000 Tim Conway Stakes over the Santa Anita strip by 5 1/2 lengths in his last outing. Super Ninety Nine, a Pulpit colt trained by Bob Baffert, won at first asking going 7 furlongs on Oct. 8, dueling for the lead and earning an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.
South Floyd, an Any Given Saturday colt owned by basketball coach Rick Pitino, finished second to Merit Man in the Conway. Sweet Shirley Mae ran well against top filly company at Saratoga. Hazardous drew off to win his last race over the Santa Anita strip by 13 1/4 lengths but that was against $22,500 claimers -- and he wasn't taken.
The Euro joker is Ceiling Kitty, a Red Clubs filly who has three wins from seven starts against some nice ones at York, Ascot, Doncaster and Newmarket. She has won on the all-weather and the turf but never before tried the dirt.
Three minor stakes precede the Breeders' Cup races and the $150,000, Grade II Twilight Derby at 9 furlongs on the turf will wrap things up for the day. The Breeders' Cup races will be televised live on NBC Sports Network starting with the Juvenile Sprint at 10:06 a.m. EDT, 1:06 p.m., PDT.
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