Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- They emptied out all the pills, and still, no relief. The handicapping headache that is the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint could have its winner come from pretty much anywhere in the full gate of 14, with a wide-open Churchill Downs tote board portending as much.
Informed Decision is the defending champion in the Filly and Mare Sprint, but with her form having gone somewhat stale during her 5-year-old season, fans will regard her as just one amongst a jumble of contenders when this seven-furlong race is run for the fourth time Friday. Jonathan Sheppard, Informed Decision's Hall of Fame trainer, has been cautiously optimistic in recent weeks while hoping the gray mare can somehow reprise the sensational effort she put forth in prevailing last year at Santa Anita.
More likely, however, is the prospect of a new Filly and Mare Sprint champion being crowned.
Rightly So, the lukewarm morning-line favorite at 3-1, would be a worthy successor. As a gate-to-wire winner of the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga in her most recent start Aug. 28, Rightly So figures squarely into the mix after leaving promptly from a favorable outside slot. Trainer Tony Dutrow is intent on seeing the New York-bred Rightly So and jockey Cornelio Velasquez making life very difficult for their rivals after a sharp start from post 13.
"I sure don't see any downside to the post, none at all," said Dutrow.
Rightly So may indeed prove fastest of the fast, but several others have a brand of early speed to keep her moving right along, including Gabby's Golden Gal, Champagne d'Oro, Secret Gypsy, and Moontune Missy.
"She's used to other horses coming at her, all the jocks smooching behind her, but I really think she can run fast all the way around there," said Dutrow. "I love the way she's coming into this."
Gabby's Golden Gal, unraced since winning the Grade 1 Santa Monica at Santa Anita more than 10 months ago, is a particularly compelling entry, especially with Bob Baffert as her trainer. Simply by running her off workouts, Baffert will be trying to pull off what undoubtedly would be praised as a masterful training feat if the 4-year-old Gabby's Golden Gal can prevail.
"Just a lot of little things kept her out," said Baffert. "She's a Grade 1 winner and I expect her to run well fresh."
Champagne d'Oro, a 3-year-old who by capturing the Acorn and Test in New York is the only horse in the field to have won two Grade 1 races this year, seems suitably drawn in post 14, from where jockey Miguel Mena should be unencumbered when sending his mount in hot pursuit of Rightly So. Outspoken trainer Eric Guillot raised eyebrows in the days leading to the Breeders' Cup when he said that Champagne d'Oro might be 10-1, "but she'll run like 3-5."
Likely to be laying in wait behind the early goers will be another group of consistent sprinters, including My Jen, upset winner of the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park last out; Sara Louise, a Godolphin filly eligible to benefit from her latest start; Evening Jewel, a versatile and highly consistent California filly turning back from a turf route; Dubai Majesty, winner of the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America last out at Keeneland; and Jessica Is Back, a relentless type whose 45 career starts are most in the field.
Informed Decision arguably has the best closing kick and conceivably could repeat in case of a pace meltdown. Her jockey, Julien Leparoux, said the mare "leveled off beautifully" when firing belatedly to be third as the favorite last month in the six-furlong TCA.
Three starters -- Rightly So, Dubai Majesty, and Jessica Is Back -- had to be supplemented to the race for $90,000 each, meaning the total purse will be about $1,270,000 if all start.
Either or both of the fillies on the also-eligibles list, Tidal Pool and First Passage, would make the race only in case of scratches by 7 a.m. Eastern on Friday.
This will be the first year the Filly-Mare Sprint will be run at seven furlongs on dirt. Its 2007 inaugural at Monmouth Park was run at six furlongs, while the last two runnings were at seven furlongs on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.
The Filly and Mare Sprint (race 7) is the third BC event on the Friday card and leads off a late pick four that ends with the Ladies' Classic. Post time is 5:30 p.m.