The Breeders’ Cup is three weeks away and the preps have dwindled to a precious few. There will be one less after Saturday afternoon when 10 fillies and mares will try to convince their connections that they belong in the field for the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in the E. P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine. A $600,000 purse only sweetens matters in the mile-and-a-quarter turf stakes that promises to be quite revealing.
1. Gaining (10-1): Juddmonte’s European import has been knocking on the door for a big win since arriving in North America. She may be winless in four starts but has never been worse than third and seems ready for a big effort after an impressive try in the Ramsey Farm Stakes at Kentucky Downs, when she checked on the first turn and then was forced to rally eight wide while finishing third, just 1 ¼ lengths behind the winner. She figures to get a better trip from the rail to be a major factor here.
JOCKEY: Jose Valdivia Jr. TRAINER: Brad Cox
2. Red Tea (3-1): She’s blossomed at 6, moving into group stakes company in Europe. She was third in in a Group 1 stakes at Deauville in her most recent start, and won a Group 2 stakes before that. Deserves plenty of respect in her North American debut with Woodbine’s leading rider in the saddle.
JOCKEY: Eurico Rosa Da Silva TRAINER: Joseph O’Brien
3. A.A. Azula’s Arch (20-1): The local hopeful returned from a five-month layoff and turned in a useful effort on a synthetic surface, finishing fourth in a stakes, just two lengths behind the winner. Should move forward off that tightener, but she was no better than fourth in her last three turf races and may be over her head against these.
JOCKEY: Kazushi Kimura TRAINER: Kevin Attard
4. Si Que Es Buena (8-1): Should have no problem with the distance as she won her last start, the Grade 3 La Prevoyante Stakes at a mile and a half. The troubling part is that the 12-furlong stakes was contested in late January. If there’s no rust after the layoff, she fits in nicely with this group.
JOCKEY: Chris Landeros TRAINER: Graham Motion
5. Holy Helena (10-1): The Canadian-bred has plenty of class, running in 11 graded stakes in her last 12 starts. She faced Si Que Es Buena twice this winter, losing by a neck to her on a firm track and then finishing sixth over a yielding course in the La Prevoyante Stakes. She was fourth here in the Canadian Stakes last time out behind the front-running winner Starship Jubilee, though she beat Starship Jubilee by 1 ¼ lengths prior to that in the Group 2 Dance Smartly. She would move up on a firm course.
JOCKEY: Rafael Manuel Hernandez TRAINER: Jimmy Jerkens
6. Durance (6-1): Ships in from Germany where the 3-year-old filly ascended into group stakes company. She was second in a Group 2 stakes last time out, losing by 2 ¼ lengths, and was third in a Group 1 stakes before that, only 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner. If that form translates well on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, she can be a major player.
JOCKEY: Lucas Delozier TRAINER: Peter Schiergen
7. Imperial Charm (4-1): The 3-year-old may have needed her last start when she was third in a Longchamp stakes a month ago. She was competitive in a Group 1 stakes against 3-year-olds in May at this distance, losing by 1 ½ lengths, and could be a factor in a wide-open race.
JOCKEY: Andrea Atzeni TRAINER: Simon Crisford
8. Starship Jubilee (7-2): Was an impressive winner of a prep for this race, grabbing the early lead and drawing clear in the stretch to win by 4 ¼ lengths. Was only beaten by a half-length in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa at Saratoga and before that was second by 1 ¼ lengths to Holy Helena in the Dance Smartly. There does not appear to be an abundance of early speed in the race which bodes well for her chances.
JOCKEY: Luis Contreras TRAINER: Kevin Attard
9. Platane (20-1): Another European shipper, she has shown little since winning a Group 3 stakes in April. She’s coming off a fifth in a Group 2 stakes in France and will need to pick her game considerably to be a factor here.
JOCKEY: Maxime Guyon TRAINER: Carlos Laffon-Parias
10. Secret Message (10-1): Won the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes here in May, beating Starship Jubilee, but didn’t fire in her last two starts. Was eighth last time out in the Ballston Spa but was hurt by a wide trip and could rebound here on a course where she seems to thrive.
JOCKEY: Trevor McCarthy TRAINER: Graham Motion
THE PICK: Gaining
LIVE LONGSHOT: Secret Message