Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
By Peter Fornatale
The Filly & Mare Turf continues to be a tug of war between Europe and North America, with the score currently 12-8 in favour of the home side. With Chad Brown in their corner, it's likely that European runners will always be tackling a top notcher and this year is no different.
With Magical out due to injury, the already strong prospects of Sistercharlie landing back-to-back wins in the Filly & Mare Turf have improved considerably. She has had a very similar prep to last year, landing the Diana and the the Beverly D, but managed to squeeze the Flower Bowl – basically winning all the most important Filly & Mare Turf trials - in this season, winning that too. I have profiled her in depth elsewhere on this site, but needless to say she has very strong claims.
As with her preps, Brown has entered her stablemate Thais to set the pace and that should ensure that this year's Filly & Mare Turf is run at a good clip and should produce a fair result.
That should suit Fleeting who is looking to give Aidan O'Brien a long overdue first win in the race. She was extremely unlucky in the Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot last time, getting no run throughout the final two furlongs. It was not the first time she has appeared unlucky this season, finding trouble due to her hold up style on numerous occasions, including in the Epsom Oaks, Ribblesdale, Prix de l'Opera, and when first opposing Sistercharlie in the Beverly D (where she appeared to hit the rail early on and never find her best stride. She is clearly very talented and looks a serious threat to Sistercharlie on paper.
Fleeting looks to have improved since, but she has shown that improvement on soft ground at right-handed tracks and it's hard to know how that will translate back to Santa Anita's firm turf, particularly as her breeding is a strong influence for easier going. That said, she’s still an interesting item at the right price.
O'Brien's other runner, Just Wonderful, looks a bit overmatched having failed to win in seven starts this season, including last time when well beaten in the First Lady Stakes at Keeneland last time. Her best run was probably her third placed finish when behind Iridessa.
Iridessa looks to have solid claims of giving Aidan O'Brien's son Joseph his first win as a trainer having ridden St Nicholas Abbey to victory in the race in 2011. She has been mixing it up distance wise this season but her best effort came when winning the Pretty Polly over the ten-furlong trip she will face at Santa Anita. She is well drawn in stall one and showed she is still in good form when a solid third on her latest start in the Sun Chariot.
The winner that day was Billesdon Brook, who has been impressively brought back to form having been largely in the wilderness since scoring an upset victory in the 1000 Guineas last year. She was beaten in a Listed race at Pontefract just three start ago, but won over seven at Goodwood and seemed to win with a bit at hand at Newmarket last time. Two of her wins this season have come over seven furlongs and she has yet to prove herself over the Filly & Mare Turf distance, a bit free on seasonal debut over nine furlongs. She should stay on paper, with abundant stamina on both sides of her page, but it remains a nagging doubt.
There are no stamina issues for Villa Marina, who will look to emulate Wuheida by using the Prix de l'Opera as a springboard to Filly & Mare glory. She had Fleeting behind when winning there, and in the Prix Vermeille when too keen for her own good, and has generally improved all season. She was a bit free again in the l'Opera but travelled smoothly, quickened up well and looked to win with a bit up her sleeve. She isn't proven on the ground but looks a fluent enough mover and strikes as the type who could step up massively given a real pace to run at.
Unlike their long-standing rivals from Ballydoyle, Godolphin have owned a Filly & Mare Turf winner and have two shots at doubling up this year.
Castle Lady is a Classic winner having scored in the French 1000 Guineas on heavy ground before proving a shade disappointing in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. She has already had a run on American soil, finishing second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a Grade 1 at Keeneland. She couldn't match Cambier Parc there – trained by Chad Brown, who will know where he stands in relation to Sistercharlie – but she is probably a pretty good horse and Castle Lady should come forward for that run. She needs to improve a little still, though, and is unproven over the distance.
No worries on that score for Fanny Logan, who has multiple wins over ten furlongs. She has improved significantly since the hood was applied, winning all four starts in the headgear, clearly too good for Listed oppositions on three occasions and handling the step up to Group 3 company with aplomb last time. That form gives her a little to find but her trainer, John Gosden, is a genius who doesn't tend to overface his horses, so she has a shot at the frame.
Similar comments apply to Mrs. Sippy, who wasn't beaten far by Sistercharlie on her second run for Graham Motion having previously been with David Simcock. She was only Listed class in Europe but looks to have improved for the move across the Atlantic and has place claims.
A strong field is rounded out by two Grade 1 winners. Vasilika is very exposed having had thirty-five runs but always seems to be doing her best work at the end of her races and the return to ten furlongs, over which she has won her only start, is a positive move. Her best Beyer translates reasonably well and she is an impressive 11 from 12 at Santa Anita.
Mirth scored in a Grade 1 over the Filly & Mare Turf course and distance on her most recent start, recording a clear career best there. That still leaves her with some work to do, however, and this front-runner is unlikely to get an easy time of it with Thais in the field.