Although 10 fillies and mares have been entered in Saturday’s $2 million, Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland Race Course, it’s safe to assume the majority of bettors will focus on two: #5 Swiss Skydiver and #10 Monomoy Girl.
Indeed, the two favorites are so talented that they overshadow the remaining eight entrants. That’s pretty remarkable since the rest of the field includes four Grade 1 winners, a trio of Grade 2 winners, and a stakes winner who has placed against Grade 1 company. Normally an improving filly like Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes winner #8 Valiance would be a prime contender for victory. And certainly bettors would be keen to support #2 Harvest Moon, an up-and-coming 3-year-old fresh off beating older females in the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes.
But this isn’t your typical Distaff field — the quality at the top is exemplary.
Take Monomoy Girl, for example. The champion 3-year-old filly of 2018 boasts half a dozen Grade 1 wins on her resume, including well-measured triumphs in the 2018 Longines Kentucky Oaks and Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
A bout with colic and a pulled muscle caused Monomoy Girl to miss all of the 2019 season, but she’s come back as strong as ever in 2020. After scoring an easy allowance victory at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old mare rattled off triumphs in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes and Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Oak Grove Racing and Gaming. Monomoy Girl has now crossed the finish line first in her last 10 starts (she was disqualified in the 2018 Cotillion Stakes) and in 13 of her 14 starts overall, stamping the daughter of Tapizar as the one to beat for hot trainer Brad Cox.
But you can argue Monomoy Girl has never faced a rival as formidable as Swiss Skydiver. An ultra-durable 3-year-old conditioned by Ken McPeek, Swiss Skydiver has finished third or better in eight consecutive graded stakes events this season. She hasn’t just handled this busy schedule — she’s absolutely thrived with frequent racing, improving steadily throughout the summer and fall.
Swiss Skydiver secured her first Grade 1 victory in the 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, where she tracked the pace before taking command to beat graded stakes winners Bonny South, Harvey’s Lil Goil, and Envoutante by 3 1/2 lengths. But Swiss Skydiver elevated her game to another level entirely when facing males in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3 at Pimlico. After saving ground early on while rating a few lengths off the lead, Swiss Skydiver rallied boldly up the rail on the backstretch, taking a half-length lead from Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Authentic. Around the far turn and down the homestretch, Authentic tried to reclaim the lead, but Swiss Skydiver refused to concede. At the finish line, the filly was in front by a neck, earning strong speed figures of 105 (Beyer) and 109 (Brisnet).
On paper, Swiss Skydiver is every bit as fast as Mononoy Girl, and you can argue she’s drawn a more favorable post position. Whereas Monomoy Girl is marooned in the outside post, Swiss Skydiver will break from the middle of the field, possibly allowing the daughter of Daredevil to save more ground than her older opponent. We learned quite clearly in the Preakness that Swiss Skydiver doesn’t mind racing inside of rivals.
Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver are both elite racehorses — perhaps even future Hall of Fame inductees. But barring an unlikely dead heat, there can only be one winner on Saturday, and I’m tempted to side with Swiss Skydiver. The sheer resilience she displayed in the Preakness was inspiring, and she’s posted two sharp workouts in the interim, suggesting she’s maintaining good form into the Distaff.
If asked to plot a Breeders’ Cup Distaff wagering strategy on a $10 budget, I would recommend playing Swiss Skydiver over Monomoy Girl in a straight exacta. Assuming they run 1-2 in my preferred order, the payoff should be solid.
But if you have more than $10 to spend — say, $30 — I would steer you toward a pair of trifecta tickets playing Swiss Skydiver on top. Underneath, I would key Monomoy Girl for second and third place while adding Harvest Moon, Valiance, #1 Ce Ce, #7 Point of Honor, and #9 Ollie’s Candy for the final slot.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 exacta: 5 with 10
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 10th race, $10 exacta 5 with 10
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$4 trifecta: 5 with 10 with 1,2,7,8,9 ($20)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 10th race, $4 trifecta 5 with 10 with 1,2,7,8,9
$2 trifecta: 5 with 1,2,7,8,9 with 10 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 10th race, $2 trifecta 5 with 1,2,7,8,9 with 10
Good luck, and enjoy the race!