Sunday, October 23, 2011

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

It’s the classic rivalry of East vs. West. It’s the trend of girl power and underdogs. It’s the race full of stories that will tug at your heart. It’s horse racing at its best. It’s the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and it's going to be one of the best Breeders’ Cup races of the weekend.
Here are my top four picks for the Juvenile Fillies:
1. Weemissfrankie: Maybe I’m partial because I’ve followed her since her maiden and she greatly resembles my horse’s looks and personality, but this filly has impressed me tremendously. In the post parade for her maiden race, I noticed how impeccable her conformation was. She had a beautiful neck that was long, thin and tied in perfectly at her shoulder. Her chestnut legs were strong, possessing short cannon bones and pasterns that were angled correctly. Though her back was hidden by the saddle, I have seen photographs of her without it on and have noticed that it is strong and short, just as it should be. Her hip is powerful and muscled just like the rest of her. This all adds up to her beautiful, fluent stride that covers much ground.
After her maiden win, Weemissfrankie was victorious in the Del Mar Debutante (GI), crossing the wire over a length in front of Self Preservation. In her final start before the Breeders’ Cup, the Oak Leaf Stakes (GI), she was still third at the sixteenth pole in her first try over a dirt surface. Suddenly, she hit another gear and flew past Candrea. Once she was even with the Bob Baffert trainee, Rafeal Bejarano hand-rode her to the wire. Her speed figures may be lower than other top fillies, but in her three starts, she has come home very quickly. Her final eighth of a mile in her first two starts was 12 1/5 seconds and her final sixteenth of her third start was 6 2/5 seconds. In fact, she broke the Del Mar track record for five furlongs in her debut.
On Saturday, the daughter of Sunriver turned in her latest work. Traveling five furlongs over the Santa Anita dirt track, she effortlessly worked 59.40. It was very similar to her work on October 15, in which she readily worked a half-mile in 46.60. According to an HRTV Diary, those around her are very happy with how she’s doing.
Weemissfrankie has a story that will pull on your heart strings. Her name may seem silly, but if you divide it into three words, leaving out a letter, you will see that it has a very special message: We miss Frankie. The stunning chestnut filly, owned by a partnership, is named after Frank Alesia, who had been part of the group of owners with his wife, Sharon. In addition to the touching factor of her namesake, Weemissfrankie is part of just two crops of her late sire, Sunriver, who died in August of 2009 at the tender age of six. It doesn’t end there, as she provided her trainer, Peter Eurton, with his first graded stakes win when Weemissfrankie won the Debutante and is now taking him to the Breeders’ Cup. Just imagine how many hearts it would touch if this filly won the Juvenile Fillies. I believe she has a good chance to do so.
2. My Miss Aurelia: I’ve followed this filly since her maiden as well and she has quickly become the most highly regarded two-year-old filly in the nation. A daughter of stakes-winning My Miss Storm Cat, the bay daughter of Smart Strike is a half-sister to stakes-placed Albergatti. The filly is a homebred for Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC.
Prior to her maiden, I noticed that My Miss Aurelia had the build of a racehorse. She had quality muscling that was very distinct. Her heart girth was deep, indicating that she had a large set of lungs that would allow her to breathe well. In addition, she had a perfect neck that shined like rich mahogany.
In her maiden, My Miss Aurelia gamely won by a length at Saratoga. She made her next start in the Adirondack Stakes (GII), also at Saratoga. She battled with Millonreasonswhy down the stretch, prevailing by a neck. The two finished nearly fifteen lengths ahead of the third place-finisher, Bellacourt, who won the Joseph A. Gimma Stakes at Belmont on Saturday.
In her final prep race for the Breeders’ Cup, My Miss Aurelia easily won the Frizette Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park by 5 ½ lengths in an impressive final time of 1:35.22 for a mile. She can obviously come home well, but she will also provide a good pace for Weemissfrankie to run at in the Juvenile Fillies.
My Miss Aurelia also comes with a touching story. She’s owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton. We all know that Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables passed away in April, which automatically makes one want to see any Stonestreet horse do well. It gets even more emotional from there. Jess Jackson named the filly after George Bolton’s mother not long before his death. It would be wonderful for the filly’s connections to be triumphant at the Breeders’ Cup, in which she will likely be the top betting choice. If she can last up front, she will be dangerous to catch in the stretch.
3. Grace Hall: My top three fillies are all undefeated in three starts. Grace Hall has won all of her races by a total of 10 ½ lengths. After a three-length maiden victory at Delaware Park, Grace Hall impressively won the Spinaway Stakes (GI) at Saratoga. She then returned to Delaware Park for the Blue Hen Stakes, which she won without any effort at all, crossing the wire in front by 5 ¾ lengths.
She is training up to the Breeders’ Cup very well, having worked a half-mile in 48 seconds flat at Delaware Park on Saturday. A week earlier, she recorded a bullet half-mile in 47.20. The daughter of stakes-winning Season’s Greetings must have her connections feeling pretty confident in their filly that is built like a tank. I don't know that she quite has the class of my top two, but I don't think we've seen the best of her yet.

4. Awesome Belle: How can you forget Awesome Feather’s stirring win in the Juvenile Fillies last year? From Awesome Feather’s beginnings comes Awesome Belle. Awesome of Course is the sire of both fillies, who were both bred by Jacks or Better Farm Inc. Awesome Feather came into the Breeders’ Cup owned by Jacks or Better Farm and trained by Stanley Gold, as will Awesome Belle. Awesome Feather entered the Juvenile Fillies with a romp in the Florida Stallion My Dear Girl Stakes, as will Awesome Belle.

However, “Belle” is not coming into the Breeders’ Cup with an undefeated record like “Feather” did. Awesome Belle didn’t win her debut, but rather broke her maiden in her second start. She then finished second to stablemate Redbud Road in the J J’sdream Stakes, which Awesome Feather had won in 2010 prior to sweeping the Florida Stallion Stakes series. After her encouraging second in that race, Awesome Belle finished a disappointing fifth to Redbud Road in the Florida Stallion Desert Vixen Stakes. In her next start, she had a rough trip and finished third behind Queen Drama and Redbud Road.
Then came her defining moment. Leading the entire way, Awesome Belle dominated the My Dear Girl Stakes, winning by 7 ½ lengths. It is not expected by many that she will put in a performance like Awesome Feather did in the Juvenile Fillies, but it is quite remarkable that her connections have a chance to win back-to-back runnings of the race with a similar filly.

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