The fields for the 14 races that comprise the Breeders’ Cup World Championships begin to really come into focus in late summer and early fall.
The “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series offers the winners of specific individual races an expenses-paid starting spot for corresponding Breeders’ Cup races. On Sept. 4 at Saratoga Race Course, War Like Goddess pulled away to a dominant victory in the $600,000, Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes to punch her ticket to the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
War Like Goddess has now put together a four-race winning streak to become arguably the best Filly and Mare Turf contender based in North America. How has this 4-year-old English Channel filly become so good, so quickly? Does she have what it takes to defeat the top Europe-based contenders? Let’s take a closer look.
War Like Goddess is a good reminder that you don’t always get what you pay for. Seven-figure purchases at Thoroughbred auctions sometimes can’t run a lick, and bargain-priced racehorses often develop into true stars on the track. War Like Goddess falls into the latter category.
A bay filly by English Channel, she first sold at auction for $1,200 as a weanling at the 2017 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. She failed to meet her reserve on a final bid of $1,000 10 months later at the Keeneland September yearling sale before selling for $30,000 at the 2019 OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age.
There are all sorts of reasons why a Thoroughbred racehorse might not be especially appealing at auction and War Like Goddess was a somewhat late foal (born April 14), so perhaps time was not on her side. However, the promise she perhaps lacked in the auction ring War Like Goddess has in spades on the racetrack.
She won both of her starts as a 3-year-old in 2020 for owner George Krikorian and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before an unplaced finish in her stakes debut Feb. 27, 2021, in the Grade 3 The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park. She dropped 10 lengths off the pace in that start and passed four opponents late to finish 3 ¼ lengths behind winner Antoinette.
War Like Goddess has not lost a race since The Very One.
Her first stakes win came when War Like Goddess rallied from second to last in a nine-horse field to win the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes by a nose from 11-10 favorite Always Shopping March 27 at Gulfstream Park. She followed with a runaway 3 ¾-length score in the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes April 23 at Keeneland, where she flashed her explosive closing speed with a final quarter-mile in 22.74 seconds in a 1 ½-mile race.
“As a 2-year-old, she was kind of a spindly little girl but she has filled out, gotten stronger, and is very professional,” Mott said after the Bewitch win.
That professionalism would continue in her next two races as War Like Goddess won the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes on Aug. 7 by 3 ¼ lengths and the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths, both at Saratoga, to extend her winning streak to four. With six wins in seven starts, War Like Goddess has thus far displayed rare consistency for a racehorse even as the competition has improved. Jockey Julian Leparoux has been aboard War Like Goddess during her winning streak and has ridden her in six of seven starts.
She has earned a 102-110-113 string of Equibase Speed Figures for the Bewitch, Glens Falls, and Flower Bowl with Beyer Speed Figures of 97-99-100, BrisNet speed ratings of 98-100-104, and TimeForm US ratings of 123-122-121. So according to the first three speed figure makers, War Like Goddess has made steady improvement over her last three starts while the fourth, TimeForm US, presents a more consistent (but still fast) string of races.
Add in the fact that the 1 3/8-mile distance of the Filly and Mare Turf seems perfect for War Like Goddess, and it’s easy to see how a compelling argument can be made that she’s the best U.S.-based hopeful for the race … or at least neck and neck with Mean Mary.
Two factors appear to be legitimate hurdles for War Like Goddess at the World Championships: venue and the aforementioned Europeans.
War Like Goddess has never competed in a race west of Louisville, so the travel to Southern California will be a first-time challenge. It’s a long trip and the turf courses in Southern California play much, much differently than Churchill Downs, Saratoga, and Keeneland. When War Like Goddess raced in South Florida for the first time, she suffered her lone defeat to date but was much better in her second start at Gulfstream Park, which like California has a sandy, faster turf. The Gulfstream speed figures, however, indicate she might prefer a deeper, thicker turf course than she’ll see at Del Mar, and it can also be tough to make up a ton of ground late on that course.
We’ve already seen a pair of Europeans ship over and dominate in the United States in Santa Barbara, winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational and Beverly D. Stakes; and Althiqa, winner of the Longines Just a Game Stakes and Diana Stakes, also both Grade 1 races. Both would be elite contenders for the Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf if they ship in for the race, and it’s very possible several others with similar, if not better, credentials could participate in the $2 million race. Of course, the Europeans also will have to answer questions about handling the Southern California turf.
I’m not as concerned about War Like Goddess handling the trip to Southern California and the firmer turf – I believe a Hall of Famer like Mott will have her prepared – but I do believe both aforementioned Europeans have a higher win probability in what should be a terrific race.
War Like Goddess is by 2007 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf winner and champion turf male English Channel, a six-time Grade 1 winner who earned more than $5.3 million and has become one of the leading turf sires standing in North America. English Channel counts last year’s champion turf male Channel Maker and six Canadian champions among 63 stakes winners from 11 crops of racing age.
English Channel has shown some versatility as a sire, but most of his best runners thrived going long on the grass like War Like Goddess.
War Like Goddess is the first stakes winner produced by the North Light mare Misty North, whose lone win in 11 starts was at one mile on the synthetic main track at Golden Gate Fields.
There is not much black type (indicating success in stakes races) in this pedigree until you go back to the third dam (maternal great-grandmother) of War Like Goddess, Romanette, by Alleged. Romanette was a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles on the grass and multiple graded stakes-placed. She also produced a pair of stakes winners in Europe, including multiple Group 1-placed Blush Rambler.
The 1 3/8-mile Filly and Mare Turf should be an ideal distance for War Like Goddess given her proven track record at that distance and her pedigree. She figures to be among the favorites for the race, and for good reason.