With the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” schedule underway for 2018, the time has come to begin sorting the contenders from the pretenders for this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on Sistercharlie, winner of the $600,000 Beverly D. Stakes on Aug. 11 at Arlington International Racecourse to earn a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
In four starts this season, Sistercharlie has established herself as the front-runner for the Eclipse Award as champion turf female as well as the top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
With three Grade 1 wins in 2018, Sistercharlie is the clear leader of the turf female division, but in the Beverly D. she looked like even more. Facing an accomplished group, the 4-year-old Myboycharlie filly closed powerfully under John Velazquez to take a clear lead and then hold off late-running stablemate Fourstar Crook in what looked like a measured win by a filly who was much the best.
She covered the final three-sixteenths of a mile in about 16 ½ seconds, once again showing off her explosive finishing speed that has been a calling card all year.
In her previous start, Sistercharlie covered the final eighth of a mile in approximately 11:28 seconds to catch Ultra Brat in the shadow of the wire of the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Even in defeat when second to the aforementioned Fourstar Crook in the Grade 2 New York Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets on June 8 at Belmont Park, Sistercharlie drilled the final quarter-mile in a blistering 22.70 seconds when her last-to-first rally came up a head short.
Prior to that race, Sistercharlie dominated her season debut when winning the Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland by 2 ¼ lengths in a race that earned her a career-best 117 Equibase Speed Figure.
This is a group stakes winner in Europe who ran second in the French Oaks in 2017. She was an elite talent who competed against top European competition at age three, and she’s overmatched her opposition in the U.S. in her last two starts.
Sistercharlie’s Equibase Speed Figures for her two most recent wins were both 103, which on the surface does not look especially promising, but the reality is that final times in turf races are significantly impacted by early pace.
Allow me to explain further:
In the Beverly D. the opening half-mile was completed in a leisurely 50.53 seconds with three-quarters of a mile in 1:15.29 and a mile in 1:39.84. For a closer who prefers to race well off the pace, there are physical limitations to how fast a horse can finish a race. It’s just not physically possible for a racehorse to run an eighth of a mile in less than 10 seconds after already running a mile or longer, so if the pace is exceptionally slow, sometimes the final Equibase Speed Figure comes up a bit light.
For a perfect example of this, remember Flintshire from back in 2016. He consistently posted Equibase Speed Figures in the 120s (up to 132 the previous year), but he won the Bowling Green Stakes in July 2016 with a 91 Equibase Speed Figure after an almost comical opening half-mile in 53.14 seconds.
That didn’t mean he had regressed. Instead, his figure in the Bowling Green reflects the challenge in assigning speed figures to turf races where the pace can vary from one extreme (a half-mile in 45 seconds) to another (a half-mile in 53 seconds) race to race. Some speed figure makers make significant adjustments to adapt for pace, while others, like Equibase, provide a raw number based on final times for races compared with others held at similar distances on the same surface.
Because of this, something I learned long ago when rating turf horses who prefer to come from off the pace is to prioritize how fast they finish.
If a turf horse can finish exceptionally fast, regardless of pace, it tells you they should be a serious contender provided they don’t encounter traffic that stops their final rally. When a turf runner can pass multiple horses even when the pace is slow, it actually speaks to their physical superiority over those who run closer to the soft pace, and who theoretically should have had plenty of gas left in the tank.
That’s why I spent the first half of this post showing that Sistercharlie is going to be flying late whether she gets an ideal fast pace to close into or chases a soft pace. In the Beverly D., jockey John Velazquez sensed the slow pace and asked Sistercharlie to accelerate a little earlier, which she did willingly to take command in early stretch.
What I’m saying is, don’t underestimate Sistercharlie based upon somewhat lackluster Equibase Speed Figures in her two most recent starts. She absolutely is fast enough and should be viewed as the early favorite for the Filly and Mare Turf.
Her trainer, Chad Brown, has won 10 career Breeders’ Cup races, and eight of his wins have come on grass, including the Filly and Mare Turf in 2012 with Zagora, in 2014 with Dayatthespa, and in 2015 with Stephanie’s Kitten. Sistercharlie is an elite talent in the hands of the best turf trainer in North America, and she appears to be peaking physically as a 4-year-old.
There are no concerns for me from a pedigree standpoint when it comes to Sistercharlie’s ability to excel at 1 3/8 miles on the grass in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Her sire, Myboycharlie, is a dual-hemisphere sire who has enjoyed most of his success in Australia. In addition to Sistercharlie, he has sired 2014 Beverly D. winner Euro Charline and Australian champion stayer Jameka.
Sistercharlie is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Group 3-placed winner My Sister Nat. Sistercharlie is out of the Galileo mare Starlet’s Sister, a full sister (same dam, same sire) to group stakes winner Leo’s Starlet and a half-sister to Grade 1-placed stakes winner Anabaa’s Creation.