Racing fans love showdowns between talented horses, so it’s understandable that the $2-million, Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs is being billed as a two-horse race between Abel Tasman (#2) and Monomoy Girl (#11).
These brilliant fillies have combined to win 10 Grade 1 races, including the last two editions of the Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, and their much-anticipated meeting in the Distaff figures to be among the highlights of the entire Breeders’ Cup.
But is the Distaff really just a two-horse race? Abel Tasman’s best efforts this year have been terrific, including a hard-fought victory against a high-class field in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga, and she boasts the highest career-best Beyer Speed Figure and BRIS speed figure of any filly in the Distaff field. As for Monomoy Girl, she’s crossed the finish line first in five straight Grade 1 races at five different tracks this year (she was disqualified and placed second in her most-recent start), and she’s remarkably versatile in terms of running style.
Then again, Abel Tasman has run well below form in two of her four starts this year, including a shocking fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes on Sept. 30, after which she was found to have been dealing with an illness. And while Monomoy Girl has been brilliant against her own age group, the Distaff will mark her debut against older horses, which can be a subtle but significant step up in class.
With that in mind, perhaps this isn’t a two-horse race at all, and perhaps Blue Prize (#10) can beat the favorites — or at least one of them — at a nice price. The 5-year-old by Pure Prize was a Group 1 winner in her native Argentina before being brought to North America in 2017, where she was beaten in her first five starts before starting to turn things around.
This year, Blue Prize has shown steady progress and enters the Distaff just a half-length away from riding a five-race win streak. As it stands, she has prevailed in her last three starts, a run that includes a better-than-it-looked victory in the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. In that race, Blue Prize settled near the back of the pack early on before sweeping to the lead around the far turn. She looked poised to win impressively at the top of the stretch, but then she started drifting around, perhaps in reaction to the whip; in any case, she wound up swerving dramatically to the outside, costing herself a lot of ground in the process. It’s a testament to how much the best she was on the day that she managed to straighten out and still win the race.
I’m not sure why Blue Prize raced so unpredictably in the Spinster homestretch, but assuming she leaves those antics behind her for the Distaff, I think she has an outside chance to upset the race. She also has a notable affinity for Churchill Downs, compiling a record of three victories (all in graded stakes) and two seconds from five starts, and if she had run straight and true in the Spinster, I think she would have earned speed figures on par or just slightly below the typical figures posted by Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl.
While I certainly respect the two favorites, I’m going to shoot for a bigger payoff here, betting Blue Prize to win while also playing her in the exacta with Abel Tasman and Monomoy Girl:
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget:
$6 to win on #10 Blue Prize
$2 exacta: 2,11 with 10 ($4)
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget
$9 to win on #10 Blue Prize
$3 exacta: 10, with 2,11 ($6)
$5 exacta: 2,11 with 10 ($10)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!