he Breeders’ Cup World Championships are less than a week away, and the final “Win and You’re In” races are in the books. Every “Win and You’re In” race guaranteed the winner a spot in a particular Breeders’ Cup race at Santa Anita Park.
Bred by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray, I’m a Chatterbox went through the sales ring as a yearling, bringing a final bid of $30,000. Luckily for the Grays, that wasn’t enough to buy the filly.
Racing under the name of the Grays’ Grayson Farm, I’m a Chatterbox won her debut at Keeneland Race Course in the fall of her 2-year-old year. The chestnut filly raced two more times that year, but it was in 2015 when she became a near-household name in the racing industry.
In the first start of her 3-year-old season, I’m a Chatterbox made her first start for trainer Larry Jones. All eyes were drawn to her performance when she finished first by eight easy lengths with jockey Florent Geroux aboard in the Silverbulletday Stakes. She spent the winter beating up on the 3-year-old fillies at the Fair Grounds, subsequently winning the Grade 3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes then Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on her way to Kentucky.
Making her next start in the Kentucky Oaks, I’m a Chatterbox went off as the fourth betting choice in the field of 14. Playing the part of a closer, I’m a Chatterbox was 11th after the first quarter of the race but steadily made up ground to finish third to stablemate Lovely Maria, beaten by 3 ¾ lengths.
From there, I’m a Chatterbox took a few months off before heading to Saratoga Race Course for the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks in late July. Leading wire-to-wire, I’m a Chatterbox was first past the finish line by a nose in the 1 1/8-mile race that included some bumping in the stretch, but she was disqualified for interference and placed second behind Curalina. Saratoga proved to be bad luck for I’m a Chatterbox when a few weeks later she rallied from fourth to try and catch front-running Embellish the Lace in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes but wasn’t able to get to the winner, finishing second by 1 ¼ lengths, the third consecutive race she had finished on the board in Grade 1.
With Calamity Kate taking the lead early on, I’m a Chatterbox raced about three lengths off the pace. On the turn, she cut that lead in half and kept pushing those in front of her before taking the lead in midstretch. With her Grade 1 win assured, I’m a Chatterbox pulled away to win by two lengths over Calamity Kate.
Unfortunately for I’m a Chatterbox, that was the last time that year she’d hit the board.
Going back to Keeneland, a track she’d prove to love, the filly went off as the second choice in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. But in a tough race, she stayed in about the same position the whole race to finish eighth.
I’m a Chatterbox was away from the races for nearly six months, returning in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland in April of this year. Knocking off the rust left over from the winter, she was able to make up ground from fourth late in the stretch, but it wasn’t enough to overhaul Brooklynsway and she finished second by 1 ¼ lengths.
Dropping down to the ungraded stakes level for her next start, I’m a Chatterbox was given a huge confidence boost when she beat four opponents in an 8 ½-length victory, the biggest margin of her career.
Running in her first Grade 1 of the year in the Delaware Handicap, it wasn’t as easy as her last race. But after racing in second throughout the early part of the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap, I’m a Chatterbox put pressure on the leading Mei Ling in the backstretch before taking over in the middle of the far turn. Paid Up Subscriber attempted to make it a race in the stretch but was always a few lengths behind and I’m a Chatterbox prevailed by an easy 2 ¼ lengths.
2016 DELAWARE HANDICAP
The race of the summer looked to be the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes, the late-summer stop for four Grade 1 winners and one Grade 2 winner.
In a tightly run race, everyone was on their top game with I’m a Chatterbox setting a solid pace in the 1 1/8-mile race. On the far turn, I’m a Chatterbox was taken on by two of the other Grade 1 winners, including her familiar rival Curalina. In a stretch run for the ages, it looked like any one of the four Grade 1 winners could win. In a race where the top four were only separated by 1 ¼ lengths, I’m a Chatterbox drew the short end of the stick, finishing fourth.
For her final race before the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, I’m a Chatterbox returned to Keeneland last month to contest the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. I’m a Chatterbox was close behind the leading Paid Up Subscriber, pressuring her for most of the race with the other horses a few lengths behind. Geroux asked I’m a Chatterbox to apply more pressure as the field went into the far turn, and from there it was all I’m a Chatterbox. In another big win, I’m a Chatterbox was seven lengths clear of Paid Up Subscriber at the finish line with the third-place horse another five lengths behind her.
2016 SPINSTER STAKES
“She ran really big. When it came time to run, she really exploded down the lane very nice,” Jones said after the race. “It seems like her numbers are getting better after every race, so I think she’s at the peak right now. We hopefully have room for improvement. I think this may be the deepest Distaff that I have seen in a long time. There’s seven really good horses; I’m putting her right there with them.”
Songbird’s 122 Equibase Speed Figure in this year’s Cotillion is the highest figure for a filly or mare on dirt this year with Curalina’s 118 in the Shuvee Handicap the second highest. I’m a Chatterbox’s career high came in the Personal Ensign, when she ran a 110.
I’m a Chatterbox is definitely a quality horse, but as Jones said, this is a deep Distaff. The retirement of Cavorting did help her a little, but it’s arguable if it helped her enough. One good thing for I’m a Chatterbox is that she is just as good as the rest of the East Coast horses headed to the Distaff — she proved that in the Personal Ensign. But the California horses look like they are a different level this year.
One big concern in the Distaff is the pace scenario. With I’m a Chatterbox, Beholder, Songbird and possibly even Stellar Wind all expected to race near the front and possibly push each other, it may leave them all vulnerable for a closer to pick up the pieces. There are a lot of questions that go with this Distaff, but overall I think there are three standouts (Beholder, Songbird and Stellar Wind). If nothing crazy happens, I don’t see anyone but one of those three winning the race.
I’m a Chatterbox is from the first crop of multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Munnings, who has 166 foals age three and older. As of Oct. 18, Munnings had 115 winners from 154 starters with 16 stakes winners. I’m a Chatterbox is his best runner to date, but he also is the sire of Grade 2 winner Om, who may be best known for winning American Pharoah’s debut. Six of Munnings’ 16 stakes winners have won at the graded stakes level with eight other horses placing in stakes races.
Munnings was more of a sprinter but has sired longer-distance routers as is obvious with I’m a Chatterbox and Om, both of whom have won graded stakes at longer than a mile, with Om’s best surface being turf. Munnings was the leading second-crop sire by earnings last year and currently is second in the third-crop sire standings with about a fifth of those earnings coming from I’m a Chatterbox.
I’m a Chatterbox is out of the stakes-placed Lost Soldier mare Chit Chatter, who has eight foals to race with five winners. I’m a Chatterbox is Chit Chatter’s only stakes winner but her half sister Lady Bear was stakes-placed at six furlongs while her half-brother Pegasus Again was stakes-placed at seven furlongs.
Chit Chatter is a full sister to the multiple stakes winner Chatter Chatter, who produced two stakes winners in addition to being the grandam (maternal grandmother) of this year’s Jim Dandy Stakes winner Laoban.
Overall, I’m a Chatterbox’s family has 10 stakes winners and 14 stakes-placed horses in her first four generations. Grade 1 Woodward Stakes runner-up Past the Point and Laoban add a layer of comfort in her ability to go farther by proving she isn’t an anomaly in a family full of sprinters, which is always nice to see with horses running in top-class route races.
I’m a Chatterbox has a tough task ahead of her in the Distaff, but with a good run, will jump to the top of her division if she runs well on Nov. 4 against one of the most competitive Distaff fields ever assembled.