I handed off my camera to Ciara Bowen (intothestretch) in my momentary sickness at the Belmont, so some of these shots are by her. Here’s Stephanie’s Kitten.
With no Breeders’ Cup race reserved just for filly turf milers, the Just a Game (I) is the spring championship for that category of racehorses, and there always seems to be a good field for this undercard race, with this year featuring the return of 1-2 finishers Stephanie’s Kitten and Better Lucky along with new and improving players. It’s a jumbled bunch, but there’s some real proven class sprinkled throughout, most notably the gray bullet Discreet Marq.
1 – READY SIGNAL – An improving daughter of proven turf sprint/miling sire More Than Ready, Ready Signal faces a class test after winning two this year and missing by 2 ½ lengths to Coffee Clique in the Distaff Turf Mile (II). She has a win at this distance on the turf course with Edgar Prado already, who is a notably good turf rider. A sharp workout has her ready on the sweet rail spot.
2 – STRATHNAVER - Cutting back to a mile which she’s won at once, the Oasis Dream [GB] mare missed by 1 ½ lengths last out in the Doubledogdare (III) at Keeneland, hanging in the stretch. Kind of a curious entry, as I wonder if she’s really good at this distance with so many better efforts going longer.
3 – DAME MARIE – One of the less impressive entries, she missed by a half-length last out in the Distaff Turf Mile (II) to Coffee Clique with one win in 7 tries at the distance. Class challenge.
4 – SOMALI LEMONADE – Matz and Saez make this filly an easy point of interest for me and winning back-to-back races doesn’t hurt. A winner at Belmont at this distance, Somali Lemonade could turn in a loose-on-the-lead performance should things not work out for the rest of the field.
5 – COFFEE CLIQUE – The Medaglia d’Oro filly has yet to fall off the board in 5 tries at the turf mile with 3 of those tries resulting in wins, including a G2 last out in the Distaff Turf Mile (II) at Churchill. Along with a sharp workout, this filly has nice upset potential matched with the excellent turf rider Javier Castellano.
6 – STEPHANIE’S KITTEN – Never shirk a Kitten’s Joy! Last year’s winner, Stephanie’s Kitten is lethal with 4 wins in 5 tries at the turf mile and 6 wins overall in 11 starts on the surface. However, she is far the best when the ground is soft, which it won’t be on Saturday, and she comes off a long layoff after trading hands from Wayne Catalano to Chad Brown. Oof!
7 – UNLIMITED BUDGET – Multiple failures on dirt trade this filly to the turf for Todd Pletcher and Rosie Napravnik. The Toddster doesn’t have a good dirt-to-turf tradeoff and neither does Rosie.
8 – WATERWAY RUN – Pummeled as a 3-year-old in Europe, the Arch filly has found a hint of success since moving stateside with a win in the 1 1/16-mile Beaugay (III) last out along with 2 very short losses. With Chad Brown training and top turf rider Jose Lezcano up, there’s plenty to like about this gal who has won at Belmont and 4 of 11 turf mile tries.
9 – DISCREET MARQ – Little to hate about this darling filly, least of all the fact that turf aficionado Christophe Clement is at the helm. Rarely finishing out of the top 2 wherever she goes, she is the one to beat with a 5:3-1-1 record at Belmont, although she is not unbeatable with a 56-day layoff (which has resulted in past losses).
10 – BETTER LUCKY – The Ghostzapper filly was just barely outgamed in last year’s race and has yet to fall off the board in 5 starts at this distance and 3 starts at Belmont. She returns to turf from a prep in the all-weather-bound Madison (I) last out and should be a threat.
Top 3 Picks:
1) Discreet Marq
2) Better Lucky
3) Waterway Run
Pick 4: Discreet Marq is the single if you must do it, but I would advise against singling anyone in a turf race. I would add in at least Better Lucky to any ticket, with spreads including Waterway Run and possibly Somali Lemonade or Coffee Clique.
Discreet Marq is the filly to beat with a huge amount of class and guts as well as home court advantage. Better Lucky is a great filly as well and is tough on any going. Waterway Run is improving and has some potential to upset as a filly who likes Belmont and has some great turf connections.