2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff Cheat Sheet
By J.J. Hysell, Hello Race Fan's Contributor
So you want to watch the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Friday but you have no idea who’s running. Not to worry! Here’s a thumbnail of the field in order of post position with morning line odds.
1. Champagne Problems (12-1) – This filly boasts three nice wins this year including the Grade 3 Groupie Doll at Ellis Park, but a couple of factors indicate that she’s a play against: Distaff rival Blue Prize has bested her in her last two races, and she’s not a horse-for-course at Churchill Downs, with a troubling 1-for-9 record over the surface. The Ian Wilkes charge also seems better suited for the mile distance.
2. Abel Tasman (7-2) – The looming question: Is she back to form after that puzzling, spiritless fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Zenyatta in September? Jockey Mike Smith described her as lethargic going into the gate, and trainer Bob Baffert suspected an illness going through the barn as a possible culprit. The subpar performance followed two stellar Grade 1 wins in New York that had indicated she was back to form after a long layoff, and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 La Troienne. Baffert giving the green light for the Distaff, along with a sharp 7-furlong work on Oct. 19 in which she held her own against Zenyatta winner and stablemate Vale Dori, indicates she could be sitting on a strong comeback effort. Last year’s Distaff runner-up and Kentucky Oaks winner over an off track boasts the class to notch the win.
3. La Force (20-1) – Although just 2 for 22 for her career, the California-based German-bred mare is an interesting contender. She was second in the Grade 1 Zenyatta and finished second to Eclipse Award-winning Unique Bella in two Grade 1 races—performances that are nothing to dismiss. Although she hasn’t visited the winner’s circle in graded stakes tries, she’s held her own against very tough competitors. Beating the likes of Monomoy Girl and Abel Tasman seems a stretch, but her mid-pack running style and trademark stretch move could put her in the mix for exotics.
4. Mopotism (30-1) – The Doug O’Neill trainee is coming into the race off a nearly four-month layoff, and her recent form in graded stakes races isn’t inspiring. She’s 0 for 4 at the distance and 0 for 2 over the surface. One factor in her favor? O’Neill raved about her recent 7-furlong work at Santa Anita (1:26.20). “She’s ready to run a big race” he said.
5. Wonder Gadot (15-1) – Toss the Grade 1 Travers try against males, and you have a very consistent 3-year-old that finished just a half-length behind Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks. Although she didn’t factor in the Grade 1 Cotillion, it’s important to note that she’s back to her preferred track for the Distaff, shown by her outstanding recent works at Churchill. That has trainer Mark Casse feeling confident. “I think she absolutely loves this surface” he said. She looms as an upset candidate if Monomoy Girl is off her game.
6. Verve’s Tale (30-1) – Distaff rivals Wow Cat and Blue Prize have bested this 5-year-old mare in recent graded stakes tries, although her third-place finish in the Grade 1 Beldame was sharp. She’s training well at Belmont heading into the challenge, but the Grade 3 winner appears overmatched against this level of talent.
7. Midnight Bisou (6-1) – Show (3rd) – Although it was a controversial decision that vaulted her to first over Monomoy Girl in the Grade 1 Cotillion, there’s no doubt she’s a legitimate threat to the heavy Distaff favorite. That bullet 5-furlong work over the Churchill Downs surface on Oct. 22 (1:00) catches the eye. Consistency is a plus, as she’s not finished out of the money in 10 career starts. Cause for concern are her losses in two Grade 1 race sthis summer at Saratoga, including a third-place finish in the Alabama as the favorite. Important to note that she loses regular pilot Mike Smith to Abel Tasman, but picks up veteran John Velazquez. Will she relish the label of underdog?
8. Vale Dori (12-1) – Was the Grade 1 Zenyatta win a result of heralded stablemate Abel Tasman being under the weather, or has Vale Dori grabbed the baton as top mare? The fact that the 6-year-old Bob Baffert trainee adores Santa Anita certainly played a role. She’ll find herself in completely new surroundings with a maiden voyage to Kentucky and her first glimpse of Monomoy Girl. She will likely play a key role in the pace scenario in a field with few front-runners. This experienced “other Baffert” is not one to be overlooked.
9. Wow Cat (8-1) – Place (2nd) – This intriguing Chilean-bred was unbeatable in eight races in her home country before coming to the U.S. and finding success. A third-place finish behind Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, followed by a win in the Grade 1 Beldame, puts her squarely in the mix of mid-tier Distaff contenders. The Chad Brown trainee is an accomplished long-distance runner that boasts experience and a mid-pack running style that fits this pace scenario. Must consider for exotics.
10. Blue Prize (6-1) – A lot to like about this Ignacio Correas trainee, who comes into the Distaff on a three-race win streak that includes two graded stakes wins over the Churchill Downs surface. The Grade 1 Spinster win on Oct. 7 at Keeneland was impressive but also concerning. Breaking from post 11, she found herself farther back than her usual style and endured a wide trip, yet she still rallied to win. However, that sharp ducking out that almost cost her the race doesn’t elicit confidence when she’s facing the country’s top fillies and mares on Saturday. Never worse than second in five races at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old mare is one to consider for exotics.
11. Monomoy Girl (2-1) – Winner – The deserved Distaff favorite looms large over the rest of the field in both talent and class. The Brad Cox trainee has absolutely dominated the competition at five tracks in a stellar, unmatched 3-year-old campaign. The chestnut returns to the scene of her brilliant Kentucky Oaks victory and has trained superbly leading into Saturday’s test. Although the Cotillion disqualification is a blemish on her record – and that race was off a two-month layoff – there’s nothing to knock about this formidable filly, who will be very tough to beat.
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