The Brock Talk

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deep Ladies Classic Division Can Withstand Defections, Retirements and Injuries

At one time this year - as recent as early October – the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic had the potential to be one for ages. The $2 million feature race on ESPN’s Friday night, Nov. 4 telecast, was to feature Havre de Grace and Blink Luck, two 4-year-old fillies that have produced one of the best rivalries of our generation over the last two years. During the 16 months, Havre de Grace and Blind Luck have met six times, in which five they finished first and second. Blind Luck has the edge on wins 3-2. )The only race neither filly won in which they both ran, Blind Luck was second and Havre de Grace was third in last year’s Ladies Classic behind winner Unrivaled Belle.

Blind Luck is headed to Kentucky in November, but she will be traveling to Lexington for the Keeneland November Sale Nov. 7-17 to be sold at public auction. Havre de Grace arrived at Churchill Downs Monday for the Breeders’ Cup, but she is being pointed toward the $5 million Classic against males Saturday, Nov. 5.

Okay then. Regroup. The Ladies Classic fans should be used to important defections after Zenyatta ran in the previous two Classics instead of the Ladies Classics won by Life is Sweet in 2009 and Unrivaled Belle.

Then more bad news when trainer John Sadler announced that Zazu, (who is a bit of a Zenyatta impersonator with the same green and teal Moss colors and come from out of the clouds running style), but a grade 1 winner of the Lady’s Secret Stakes in her own right, will miss this year’s Ladies Classic because of inflamation in a shoulder. Telling Daily Racing Form’s David Grening, “"We're going to bypass the Ladies' Classic," Sadler said. "She came out of her work a little off. We put her in the nuclear scan, and it revealed a little inflammation. The timing is lousy, but the prognosis for next year is 100 percent."

As a racing fan, I’ll take that trade. Zazu could easily develop into one of next year’s distaff stars, depending on what owners Fox Hill Farm decide to do with Havre de Grace in 2012 of course.

Even after all the defections, however, this Ladies Classic will still have some star power.

Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. 1) winner Aruna is trained by 2011 Kentucky Derby winning trainer Graham Motion and is starting to attract some attention. Although the Ladies Classic would be the first race on natural dirt for Aruna, the Spinster was her first start on polytrack after career on turf. Motion had entered Aruna in the Spinster after scratching the Mr. Greely filly from the Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. 1) on the Belmont Park turf because of weather.

Since the Spinster is also a Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic “Win and You’re In” race, Motion has said he is considering the Ladies Classic for Aruna. As Frank Angst pointed out in his Oct. 11 analysis of the Ladies Classic for Thoroughbred Times, “Much like Motion’s Derby winner Animal Kingdom, Aruna would be making her first career dirt start at Churchill Downs if she enters the Ladies Classic.”

More seasoned on dirt is Ultra Bend, who was second to Zazu in the Lady’s Secret and stakes winner of two races over synthetic tracks taking the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar and the Milady (gr. 2) at Hollywood Park. In 23 career starts, Ultra Bend has been first, second or third 21 times.

At ages four and five respectively, Aruna and Ultra Bend will also have an age advantage over three of the other popular contenders in the Ladies Classic.

No match for Havre de Grace in the Oct. 1 Beldame Stakes (gr. 1) at Belmont, second-place finisher Royal Delta now comes into the Ladies Classic among the favorites. Among the 3-year-old fillies in the Classic, Royal Delta comes into the Ladies Classic as the winner of this year’s Alabama Stakes (gr. 1) at Saratoga and grade 2 Black Eyed Susan in May. Royal Delta is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott (photo above), who will be attempting to win his fourth Ladies Classic after previously winning the race with Ajina, 1997; Escena, 1998 and Unrivaled Belle.

It’s Tricky was the other 3-year-old filly star at Saratoga this summer, taking the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. 1) in July over Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty in second and Royal Delta in third. Later in the Saratoga meeting, It’s Tricky was second to Royal Delta in the Alabama. Trained by Kiaran McGlothlin, It’s Tricky was also second to Plum Pretty in the Oct. 1 in the Cotillion (gr. 2) at Parx Racing near Philadelphia, Pa., in their last race.

Plum Pretty, also fourth in the Alabama, did not have such a great summer at Saratoga, but she is also headed to the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and will again be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Winning the Kentucky Oaks over the Churchill Downs surface in May at the 1-1/8 mile distance will also work in the Medaglia d’Oro filly’s favor.

Between Royal Delta, It’s Tricky and Plum Pretty, they have a decent rivalry going amongst them. All three ran in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama; and Plum Pretty and It’s Tricky faced each other again in the Cottillion. Between them, they have 11 starts against one another.

Like Blind Luck and Havre de Grace last year, however, the 3-year-olds are still racing against older fillies and mares, the most accomplished of which is Aruna - who just happens to be trained by 3-time Ladies Classic winner Mott. The other mare is the ultra-consistent Ultra Bend.

The gap left by Havre de Grace and Blink Luck has not yet been filled and quite frankly is not expected to be. But the Ladies Classic is far from empty. In fact, the Ladies Classic may have as many as ten fillies and mare pre-enter on Monday (including Havre de Grace.) Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Awesome Feather and Spinster second Pachattack may also be among them.

So by the time the Ladies Classic concludes ladys’ day at the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 4, there should be enough stars to enlighten the gap getting much more narrow.


Rachel said...

The 09 Ladies Classic was won by Life is Sweet. Life at Ten was the debacle that happend in Unriveled Belle's win.

Unknown said...

Thanks for catching Rachel.

ghost2 said...

Yes, still a nice, deep field even with some of the top stars out. Should be a great race.

Unknown said...

Some top stars and even some with good stories. Thanks for reading ghost2.