by Robert Boswell
Year after year at the Breeders’ Cup, horses coming from Europe make their presence strongly felt in the turf races. Shippers from overseas have won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf five of the last ten times, while Banks Hill, Ouija Board and Midday all finished second in their attempts as defending champions.
In 2011 Midday will look to emulate the great Ouija Board by bookending last year’s runner-up finish with a second win. This year’s renewal, again sponsored by Emirates Airlines, will be worth $2,000,000 and Juddmonte’s five year-old mare will likely be favored for the second straight time. After out-finishing Pure Clan and the favorite Forever Together in 2009, she was shocked by Shared Account under the lights last year.
She looks as strong as ever this year with a record third straight win in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, a second in the Group 1 Juddmonte International behind Twice Over, and a good fourth last out in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot. The 1 3/8 mile distance is right up her alley.
Though she has raced most of her career in Europe, five year old mare Stacelita was transferred to Chad Brown’s barn here in the United States this summer. She ran a good third in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth, her first start on American soil, then dominated the Grade 1 Beverly D. on Arlington Million Day, and decisively took the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational in her last. She has finished second to Midday before and will run her race regardless of the condition of the turf, making her the solid second choice.
This is where it becomes a little cloudy. Nahrain, a three year old filly from Great Britain, has only run four times but is undefeated and overcame trouble to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera in a photo at 1 ¼ miles on the Arc undercard. She could pose a threat as a filly on the improve, but her connections have not yet decided whether to send her over yet.
The filly she beat, Andre Fabre-trained Announce, also is not certain for the race. Her other 2011 outings include a runner-up finish ahead of Stacelita and a second behind prominent Turf contender Sarafina. If she runs, she has a serious chance.
Aidan O’Brien has yet to make a decision on his three year old filly, Together. She ran second in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland and returned seven days later to crush an extremely talented field in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes over the same course. She has raced mostly at a mile, but her most recent triumph was at nine furlongs, so she could like it either here or in the Mile.
Perhaps the best US chance at taking the Gamely and the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon most recently. She has yet to win outside California but has beaten talented runners like Harmonious and Cozi Rosie, who is also a probable starter for this race.
Prior to the Yellow Ribbon, Cozi Rosie won the Grade 2 John C. Mabee and is a multiple graded stakes winner, though she has failed to find success in three Grade 1 attempts.
Graham Motion still has to make a decision on his filly, Aruna. Until her most recent win in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on polytrack, she was almost a certain starter for the Filly and Mare Turf. But the Mr. Greeley filly won so impressively that she is now being strongly considered for the Ladies’ Classic. That is probably an easier spot for her, and she notched a Grade 2 win over Churchill’s main track in the Mrs. Revere last November. Very lightly raced, she seems to be rounding into form at the right time, so keep an eye on her if she goes here.
Perhaps the best US chance at taking the at Filly and Mare Turf lies with the British bred transplant Dubawi Heights. Trained by Simon Callaghan, the only loss in her last six starts came as a runner-up to Stacelita in the Beverly D. That impressive stretch includes wins in the Grade 1 Gamely and Yellow Ribbon.
Other contenderse include Malibu Pier, a multiple graded stakes winner in California; Cambina, winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks; Perfect Shirl, second in the Canadian; Distorted Legacy and Dynaslew, second and third respectively in the Flower Bowl; and defending champion Shared Account.