By Bob Ehalt
The news that Untapable won’t be running in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff due to a fever impacted the $2 million race in many of ways.
Breeders’ Cup 2015For starters, it removed from the mix the defending champ and one of the top threats in this year’s edition at Keeneland Race Course.
It may make life easier on the front end for a speedster such as wedding favours, the 4-1 favorite in a contentious area.
It also means Sheer Drama will break from post 13 instead of 14.
She will still be breaking out of a place where she could be caught wide on the first turn, and she still faces the possibility of having to pay more ground than her competitors that attracted the very first few articles.
But, hey, what’s it they say about little favors? At least she does not possess the worst place in a field of 14 for Friday’s nationally televised race around the NBC Sports Network (5:35 p.m.).
Only the next-to-worst post.
« It’s exactly what it is, » said coach David Fawkes, who wasn’t about to waive a flag and shout »no mas » following the »luck of the draw » worked against his 5-year-old mare.
In Sheer Drama, Fawkes has a horse at career-best form. A winner of merely one of six starts in 2014, she came of age at five once she began her season at Gulfstream Park in January. After winning a Sunshine Millions stakes and finishing second in the Grade 3 Rampart, she submitted her first graded stakes win when she romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the Grade two Royal Delta.
A pair of second in graded stakes at Churchill Downs followed, and then she eventually broke through with back-to-back Grade 1 wins at the Delaware Handicap along with the Personal Ensign at Saratoga in her last two starts. Unknown to a national stage one year ago at this time, she’s now the 9-2 second choice in the morning line in the nation’s premier race for older fillies and mares.
She hasn’t raced in fourteen days since her triumph at the Aug. 29 Personal Ensign, but how she has been training since then gives Fawkes enough confidence to believe she can win from any place.
« I was very disappointed in her big brother’s draw when he (Big Drama) drew the 1 post from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2010, and he won anyway, » Fawkes said. « She’s got great tactical speed and I’ve got a good jockey (Joe Bravo). I think we’ll be fine. She is quick to escape the gate, and we won’t have to hang out in there too long. The draw is a small downside. I think everything else is going to be nice. »
Godolphin Racing’s Wedding Toast, the 4-1 favourite, is also coming into the mile and an eighth Distaff the right manner as she posted a 5-length victory over Untapable in the Ogden Phipps in Belmont Park on June 6 after which gearing up for the Breeders’ Cup with an easy 2 3/4-length winner over Curalina at the Grade 1 Beldame on Sept. 26.
A front-running winner in both the Phipps and Beldame, Wedding Toast attracted article seven and it would be no surprise when jockey Jose Lezcano — recall him with Frosted in the Travers? — attempts to grab control of the BC Distaff in the start.
« She could not be doing much better, » trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. « She’s doing fabulous… She’s doing this well, we believe she is the one to beat. »
Both favorites need to be at their best at an extremely talented field that contains some familiar faces.
Got Lucky (6-1) was second to Sheer Drama in the Personal Ensign then rallied strongly in the final furlong to take Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster by a neck above Untapable and Yahilwa (20-1) in a tight, three-horse end, gaining valuable experience over the trail. Stopchargingmaria (5-1) was fourth in the Personal Ensign but before that won the Grade 3 Shuvee over Untapable and was second in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes this past spring at Keeneland.
There’s also some gifted 3-year-olds, such as I’m a Chatterbox (8-1), Curalina (12-1) and Stellar Wind (12-1), that can derive some optimism from Untapable’s victory as a 3-year-old in the past year’s BC Distaff.
They’re also able to let out a sigh of relief that they don’t have article 13.
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