Less than two weeks from the World Championships, one of the races being talked about least so far on the entire card is the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Considering the past performances of the young females who will be lining up for the 1 1/16-mile test over the main track, this is one race which deserves far more respect.
While their respective racing careers may still be relatively new, this field is shaping up to be a classy affair. Winning streaks and Grade 1 victories abound in this one which could end up being the highlight of “Future Stars Friday” on November 2 at iconic Churchill Downs.
Where will the next Rachel Alexandra or Songbird come from? Let’s take a look at some of the big names set to clash in the Juvenile Fillies …
Serengeti Empress – Trained by the streaking Tom Amoss, this daughter of Alternation has been all the rage in Kentucky ever since fading a bit at Saratoga in her stakes debut. While she is the only filly on this list without a Grade 1 victory yet in her pocketbook, Serengeti Empress has looked like anything but the weak step sister in her last two races. First she won the Ellis Park Debutante in stunning fashion, romping by more than 13-lengths in a blazing time of 1:22 1/5 for the seven furlongs in Western Kentucky. Then, proving that it was no fluke, she took to her fourth track in four races, and made an absolute mockery of the Grade 2 Pocahontas. In her first race at both Churchill Downs, and around two turns, the dark bay scintillated the Louisville crowd with a 19 1/2-length runaway.
Bellafina – This daughter of Quality Road, trained by Simon Callaghan, has been perfect since beginning her career with a solid second-place finish at Los Alamitos. Already a two-time Grade 1 winner, the $800,000 2-year-old in training purchase has proven to be at the head of the class out in California, rattling off three straight graded stakes wins. The streak began with a fast and easy win at Del Mar in the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes, which was soon followed by a trip to the winner’s circle in the prestigious Del Mar Debutante. Most recently, she carried her early speed 8 1/2 furlongs to a 6 1/2-length romp in the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. She is now clearly best in California, and as impressive as Serengeti Empress has been locally, this West Coast filly could well go favored.
Jaywalk – From the barn of John Servis, this gray filly out of the first crop of Cross Traffic dazzled fans at Belmont Park with an eye catching score in the Grade 1 Frizette. That 5 3/4-length romp came as a bit of a surprise, as before that she had never raced at one of the big New York tracks. Second in her career debut at Monmouth Park, Jaywalk took things up a notch next at Parx, where she was a romping maiden winner. From there she was a determined winner of a minor stakes at Deleware Park, before testing the deeper waters of the Frizette. The increased distance of the one-turn mile at Belmont agreed with her, as she soundly defeated the better competition in racehorse time. In fact, she ran fast every step of the way in a race which has produced more winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies than any other.
Restless Rider – This daughter of Distorted Humor, like the three fillies above her, will enter the Juvenile Fillies with a record of three wins from four starts. She is also the most experienced of the bunch at Churchill Downs. Showing her class right from the get go, Restless Rider won her debut in impressive fashion despite flipping over in the gate before the race. She came right back to win her second at Churchill, with a dominating score in the Debutante Stakes. Taking her show on the road, the gray filly was a good second in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga in her third start. Finally, and proving that she could go the distance, she was a tactical dream while scoring a facile victory in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland in her most recent start. Back at her home track for trainer Kenny McPeek, she will look to stretch her perfect record under the twin spires to 3-for-3 in the Breeders’ Cup.
Sippican Harbor – Admittedly, Gary Contessa thought he had a turf horse in this daughter of Orb. That belief quickly changed when she broke her maiden in a race taken off the grass. The 17-length runaway, to break her maiden in her second start, was enough for her trainer to do an about face and run in the Grade 1 Spinaway. The step up in class was further complicated by a rough start, but no matter. The dark bay daughter of a Kentucky Derby winner picked them up and laid them down that afternoon in the Spa, ultimately running right by Restless Rider in the final 70 yards. To date, she’s never run past 7 furlongs on the dirt, nor has she ever competed outside of Saratoga, but she does have some route experience on the turf, and her breeding suggests a fondness for a distance. The main track at Churchill Downs should prove no problem for a filly who could be running fastest of all at the end.
Photo of Restless Rider courtesy of Coady Photography