Breaking up the mares division to determine who is the best is a convoluted puzzle of determining who feels best, who has the speed, who has the stamina, and, who has the most luck. Some of the year’s determining mare races have wound up to be toss-ups with champions folding early while the second or third favorite explodes to an astonishing win.
While Havre de Grace is listed as a pre-entry, I won’t bother to cover her in this field. If she goes, she has my blessing to win as the obvious best mare, but let’s be real: the girl wants the big one, so I’ll leave her off this list. John Sadler trainee Zazu as well as Jerry Hollendorfer’s star Blind Luck leave the field a mish-mash of shoulder shrugs. It’s going to be hard to make a pick for me until I see the post position draw, official jockey assignments, and more workout info.
*I’ve returned to using the old grading system of green arrow= yes, neutral, and red arrow= no in ranking the horses expected in the field seeing as I don’t have a reading on the post positions or confirmed entries yet.
Ask the Moon - The Malibu Moon daughter is having a banner year, despite not being able to reach the front end early in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (I) last out like she prefers. Before that, she won two G1 stakes in a row at Saratoga over some decent fillies. She has the speed to wreak some awful havoc and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Royal Delta - The Alabama (I) winner and conqueror of It’s Tricky soared over her three-year-old competition, but was no match for Havre de Grace in the Beldame Invitational (I). But that’s really no insult, honestly. She has blue blood on her side as well as Bill Mott training her. She should be an easy favorite here.
Ultra Blend - A close runner-up to Zazu in the Lady’s Secret Stakes (I), her old rival is gone from the picture here which may leave Ultra Blend with ample running room at the end just the way she likes. Won the Clement L. Hirsch (I) plus 2 ungraded stakes and was second to skillful mares in her other attempts. Ultra Blend will really need the right strategy to keep the quick-footed ones like Royal Delta and Ask the Moon from getting away too soon.
Plum Pretty - Winner of 3 graded stakes this year including a romping performance over It’s Tricky last out in the Cotillion (II). The 1 1/8 mile distance is her calling card, and she’s won or near-missed in a lot of close call stakes races. Her easy Cotillon win should have given her a heap of confidence, and with that she should make strides to a great follow-up race.
Aruna - This one sounds awful familiar: a Graham Motion trainee who likes the grass but exceled on Polytrack last out headed to Churchill Downs for a dirt race? She doesn’t have much experience on the dirt, but you’d never know it the way she snagged the Spinster (I) on Poly. It’s a risky gamble should she go in the Ladies’ Classic over the Filly/Mare Turf, but if Motion decides to put her in with Ramon Dominguez, I’m on board.
- It’s Tricky - She missed nabbing the Filly Triple Crown this year to Royal Delta and suffered a bruising loss last out to Plum Pretty, who she beat handily in the Coaching Club American Oaks (I). An awesome filly, but her tricks may have peaked too early.
- Miss Match - Stormed onto the scene when she beat up Always a Princess early in the year in the San Margarita (I) and since then has been meeting with colts time after unsuccessful time all year in top graded stakes company. While she hasn’t experienced a win since March, she has run well against the best horses in the country, bar none. She deserves consideration, but I can’t really give much more than a nod.
- Satans Quick Chick - A classy closer daughter of Sky Mesa, this Chick is often overlooked wherever she goes, but seems to do a good job catching up to the rest of the field when it counts. She placed third in the Beldame (I) behind Havre de Grace and Royal Delta, but has not won since January. I think she’ll favor the 1 1/8 mile distance greatly, but she is a deserved underdog here.
Pachattack - A new star on the scene I liked even before she began popping up front on the stakes scene, Pachattack secured a G3 win before missing wins due to really talented mares finishing in front of her. She seems to like the distance, but it’s pretty clear she’s been outclassed more than enough times.
Savvy Supreme - Bob Baffert seems to want to elbow his way into every Cup race he can, and thus, he has thrown Savvy Supreme into the ring for this one. A WinStar product, she tallied her first graded win last out in the Monmouth Oaks (III). I don’t see even a promising jockey helping her much in such a big step up in class.
Super Espresso - A hyped entry this year, Bobby Flay’s new filly may have been overmatched in her graded tries, coming in 10th last out in the Spinster (I) and being mastered by the likes of Ask the Moon, Pachattack, and Awesome Maria. She won the Allaire Dupont Distaff (III) in May over a troubled Life At Ten, which we know this year isn’t saying much.
Also eligible “possibles” pre-entered but not likely to run: Great Hot [BRZ] (first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint), Medaglia d’Amour (first preference the Filly/Mare Turf), Switch (first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint), Champagne d’Oro (not selected, first preference the Filly/Mare Sprint).