Stellar Wind is likely to start favoured for the 2017 Distaff and having won all of her starts this season it's easy to see why. She gained her fifth Grade 1 success in the Clement Hirsch Stakes last time out, a good Distaff trial, but has not been seen since then, skipping the Zenyatta Stakes in an attempt to arrive fresh at Del Mar. She has had some poor luck admittedly, but it is notable that she’s yet to win at nine furlongs, though perhaps her perfect three for three mark at Del Mar makes up for that.
In Stellar Wind’s absence, Paradise Woods took the Zenyatta, making all the running and looking back to her best in the process. She had impressed when winning the Santa Anita Oaks by eleven lengths but lost her way, so it was good to see her back in winning form. She has the figures to push Stellar Wind all the way but, like that rival, has to fully prove her stamina over the mile-and-an-eighth distance. She flopped as the favourite in the Kentucky Oaks, but it may have been the sloppy surface and the pace, rather than this the distance, that got her beat on the first Friday in May. Another point in her favor is that with the late scratch of It Tiz Well, it’s possible she can use her ample early pace to control the race. Odds of 6-1 would be appealing.
There are no issues regarding distance with Elate, a strong-at-the-finish improver who will ship in from the East coast. She's yet to hit a three digit Beyer, but has won two key trials in the shape of the Alabama and, most recently, the Beldame. She is likely to expose any chinks in the armour of her West coast rivals. She has trainer Bill Mott in her corner as well. Mott has won this race an impressive five times, and Elate might well make it six.
The Distaff itself has proven to be a good trial for the following year's race, with a number of winners and participants from the previous renewal scoring a year later. That bodes encouragingly for both Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled. The latter was third last year and with no Songbird or Beholder to beat this time, it could be argued that she has the best form. She's two-for-two this year and won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign last time out, a race that Stopchargingmaria and Ashado both took part in en route to Distaff glory.
Speaking of horses returning to the Breeders’ Cup from the previous season, there’s Champagne Room. She was a huge longshot when she upset the Juvenile Fillies last year, and will be one once again here. But we do know that she’s capable of scoring at a big number on a big day.
Abel Tasman was second to It Tiz Well in the Cotillion last time out. She didn't help herself there and found less than looked likely, allowing It Tiz Well to break her Grade 1 duck. Even though Abel Tasman defeated Elate in the CCA Oaks at Saratoga, Elate might have won with a clean run, and the suspicion is that she’s improved mightily since, while we may have seen the best of Abel Tasman.
Verdict: Elate, who has been wowing clockers with her appearances in the mornings, looks like the right one. Her current odds of 4-1 are more than fair.