The Starters in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff

November 5, 2021

As Time Goes By/Private Mission – The once-beaten 3YO filly Private Mission and her older stakes-winning stablemate As Time Goes By, the 1-2 finishers in the recent Zenyatta Stakes, were both out for morning gallops on Del Mar’s main track Tuesday morning preparing for starts in Saturday’s $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. 

Both Baffert trainees galloped Thursday morning.  As Time Goes By, who was on the track immediately after the renovation break, galloped twice around the oval, while Private Mission emerged from the barn with the stable’s next set of horses to gallop a mile.

Amazingly, for all his success in Breeders’ Cup Championships as the winningest with 17 victories, Bob Baffert will be seeking his first victory in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff when he sends out two starters in the 9f event Saturday. 

Private Mission in a workout Nov. 2 (Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Private Mission, a once-beaten sophomore, will be facing older opponents for the first time.  

“I didn’t like her drawing the rail,” Baffert said. “She’s going to need to break well.

“I turned her out for a while after her only loss (last November). She’s such a royally bred filly and she should only get better with both age and racing distance.”  

She galloped once around the main oval this morning.  

As Time Goes By in a workout Nov. 2 (Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Baffert’s other entrant, the 4yo filly As Time Goes By who will get a new rider in Luis Saez, was also out for a morning gallop of a mile this morning.  

“Both of my fillies are training well, but I think As Time Goes By might prefer more distance, maybe a mile and one-quarter,” Baffert said. “This is a very tough race.  It’s a deep field.”

Blue Stripe in an Oct. 31 work. (Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Blue Stripe (ARG) – Pozo de Luna’s Blue Stripe (ARG) galloped before the morning renovation session on Tuesday with Alex Jimenez aboard for trainer Marcelo Polanco. 

Polanco, who had Blue Stripe come to his barn in May from Argentina, had penciled in a work for Tuesday morning but opted for the gallop. 

“She has done a lot of training before and she is ready to do anything,” said Polanco of Blue Stripe, whose last work was 1m in 1:42 3/5.

“The plan all along was to wait and run in the Distaff,” Polanco said of Blue Stripe, who has had 18 works since first appearing on the Santa Anita work tab June 30. 

Pozo de Luna’s Blue Stripe (ARG) jogged twice around the main track with exercise rider Alex Jimenez aboard for trainer Marcelo Polanco on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Blue Stripe visited the paddock and then jogged 2 ½ times around the main track under Jimenez. 

The half-sister to 2019 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Blue Prize (ARG) will be making her U.S. debut in Saturday’s $2 million Distaff. It will be her first start since winning the Group 1 Gran Primo Criadores at Hipodromo Argentino De Palermo on May 1 going 1 1/4m. 

Frankie Dettori, a 14-time Breeders’ Cup-winning rider, will have the mount on Blue Stripe in the Distaff and possibly may have a get-acquainted session with the 4yo filly before Saturday’s race. 

“It is not likely, but still a possibility,” Polcano said.  

Blue Stripe will represent the fifth Breeders’ Cup starter for trainer Marcelo Polanco and first since 2005 when Island Fashion finished 10th in her second try in the Distaff. 

“It is exciting to be back (in the Breeders’ Cup),” Polanco said. “The filly is doing real good. However, this is all about timing. Your horse has to be 100 percent. You can have the best horse, but if something goes wrong …” 

Clairiere in a workout Nov. 2 (Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Clairiere – Stonestreet Farm’s Cotillion winner Clairiere, one of three 3-year-olds in the Distaff field, returned to the track for the first time Tuesday since working Sunday and jogged once around. 

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has a lot of confidence in the 3-year-old filly heading into the Distaff. The filly is a daughter of Curlin, his 2007 Classic winner and two-time Horse of the Year also owned by Stonestreet.

“I’m extremely excited about Clairiere in the fact that she has always been a quality filly, always kept or stayed in the highest level of competition and has continuously gotten better from it,” Asmussen said. “She had solid races over the winter in New Orleans, including the victory in the Rachel Alexandra and then the placing the Fair Grounds Oaks and the fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. From there, the Mother Goose, Coaching Club and Alabama, just solid runs, getting a little better all the time. And, then for her to break through in her last start in the million-dollar, Grade 1 Cotillion, closing the way she did behind a slow pace. 

“She has trained lights out since she’s been out here in California. Obviously, we’re well aware of the quality of the field of this year’s Distaff, but Clairiere gives us a tremendous amount of confidence in her. We believe her best race to date will be this Saturday. It’s special it is to train a filly like her for Stonestreet. It means everything as far as why you do this. A millionaire, a Grade 1 winner and a daughter of Curlin after what he meant to us. And, then she’s out of the unbelievably brilliant race mare Cavorting trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. It’s just a great reason to be in horse racing.”

The G1 winner had an easy gallop Thursday as she prepares to give Asmussen his second Breeders’ Cup Distaff victory with a 3yo filly. He also won the race in 2014 with Untapable, who secured champion 3yo filly honors after winning the Distaff and Kentucky Oaks.

Dunbar Road in a workout Nov. 2 (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Dunbar Road/Royal Flag – Chad Brown’s Longines Distaff duo of Dunbar Road and Royal Flag each galloped one circuit of the Del Mar dirt track Tuesday morning, leaving Barn DD with their trainer following on foot.

The duo each went out for 1m gallops of the Del Mar main track Wednesday morning just after the break.

Both Distaff contenders galloped easy circuits of the Del Mar main track Thursday morning. 

Dunbar Road, who was Brown’s final of 12 gallopers on the morning, was out just past 9 o’clock, while Royal Flag went out about 20 minutes prior. 

Owned by Peter Brant, Dunbar Road drew post 11 under Jose Ortiz in what will be her career swan song. She makes her 16th start and seeks her seventh victory overall. Second last out in the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland to Distaff favorite Letruska, she will look to improve upon a fifth-place finish in 2019 and third-place finish in 2020.

Royal Flag in a workout Nov. 1 (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Royal Flag drew post two with Joel Rosario and was assigned a morning line of 8-1. She enters off a career-best effort when winning Belmont’s Beldame Invitational (G2) by 4¼ lengths. Also, a 5yo, the daughter of Candy Ride is a homebred of W.S. Farish and seeks her seventh career victory in her 13th start.

“They both are training very well, but both need pace to run at. They need Letruska softened up a bit, but there’s also some other very good horses in there Shedaresthedevil, who is top class,” Brown said. “The race will be interesting with Horologist (post seven) drawn outside of Letruska (post six).

“Dunbar Road has been great and had an outstanding career,” Brown continued. “Unfortunately, we had a couple derailments with some throat issues, but she’s back on track. She was unlucky in this race last year, getting stopped turning for home at the quarter-pole. She would have been right there. She really likes Del Mar’s surface, which is another key with her.”

Dunbar Road will make her final start in the Distaff and will be reunited with jockey Jose Ortiz, who piloted her to her biggest win, Saratoga’s Alabama (G1) in 2019. Ortiz also teamed with the daughter of Quality Road to win Belmont’s Mother Goose (G2), Churchill Downs’ Shawnee Stakes and broke the six-time winner’s maiden in March 2019 at Gulfstream Park.

“I’m looking forward to riding her one more time,” Ortiz said. “I’m getting back on her and I have a lot of respect for her and have some big wins on her. For this race, I’m excited because she’s coming into the race in good form.” 

G2 winner Royal Flag’s plans have not been decided, per Brown. Both mares are five years of age. 

Horologist in an Oct. 31 work. (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Horologist – The most experienced horse in the Longines Distaff, Bill Mott-trained Horologist will try to time it out perfectly Saturday when she makes her second start in the 9f affair. Owned by There’s a Chance Stable, Medallion Racing, Abbondanza Racing, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Paradise Farms and David Staudacher, the New Jersey-bred daughter of Gemologist makes her 27th start and fifth in Grade 1 company. She has yet to break through at the top level.

The 30-1 morning line price galloped one circuit of the Del Mar dirt track Tuesday morning. She drew post seven of 11 fillies and mares in the $2 million race. Last year, she was ninth of 10 at 14-1 odds.

Horologist galloped just over one mile of the Del Mar dirt track on Wednesday morning and, per her conditioner, has trained well for her formidable Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) test on Saturday.

“It’s a good race and we’re a big price in there — we know that,” Mott said. “We’re reaching out in a couple spots with horses like (Breeders’ Cup Mile runner) Casa Creed and her. If everything goes well and they have a big day, maybe we can get a piece of it.”

The Distaff contender Horologist galloped about a mile and a quarter Thursday morning.

Horologist enters off pace-setting runner-up effort in the Beldame Invitational (G2), a race she won last year prior to finishing ninth of 10 in the Distaff. She is a 30-1 longshot in the Distaff.

Letruska gate schooling on Nov. 2. (Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Letruska – St. George Stable’s Letruska shipped to Del Mar on Sunday, Oct. 24 and had her final timed work at from Keeneland Saturday, 5f in 1:01.20. She walked Sunday, jogged with a pony Monday and resumed galloping Tuesday.   

“I think she did it very easily,” Gutierrez said. “The exercise rider was very happy and told me she feels very, very good. That’s what any trainer wants to know about the horse. With the travel, the training, the situations, sometimes you have to be around some problems. Right now, we are in very good form.”

Gutierrez said he might change up her gallops a bit this week, but said she is ready for the Distaff. 

“The only point now is that she arrives concentrated and happy,” he said. “We don’t have anything else to do.”

5yo Letruska, schooled at the gate Tuesday and galloped 1 ½ miles at Del Mar.

Letruska galloped 1 ½m Wednesday morning with exercise rider Roger Horgan aboard.

The 8-5 morning line favorite for the Distaff Letruska, continued her preparation for the $2 million race Thursday with a 1 ½m gallop under Roger Horgan at Del Mar.

Gutierrez’s first Breeders’ Cup starter has won five consecutive graded stakes, four of the Grade 1 – and was made the 8-5 favorite in the Distaff. Under Irad Ortiz Jr. she will start from post six in the 11-horse field.

Gutierrez is a superstar trainer in Mexico, who won 10 consecutive training titles at Hipodromo de Las Americas Racetrack in Mexico City from 2010-19. He said he typically trained 200 horses a year in Mexico. Gutierrez has been training in the U.S. since March 2020 and is based in Florida.

Letruska won the first six starts of her career in Mexico. Since being imported to the U.S. in December 2019, she has a record of 11-1-1 from 16 starts. This year, she has six wins and one second from seven starts and earnings of $1,925,540.

Early in 2020, trainer Fausto Gutierrez thought Letruska might be a sprinter good enough to compete in the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. One race later, he changed his mind and put the 5yo mare on a course that has brought her to Del Mar as the 8-5 favorite in the $2 million Distaff.

During the early part of her career in Mexico and in the 2019 Copa Invitacional del Caribe Stakes she was unbeaten in distances from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 ¼ miles. An impressive win in the Added Elegance on June 27 at Gulfstream Park, made Gutierrez think he had found her best distance.

“She ran one mile, just one turn, and she crossed the six furlongs in 1:08 and change,” Gutierrez said. “At that moment, I thought that maybe we had a spot for the Breeders’ Cup, the Sprint.”

To test his theory, Gutierrez took her to Saratoga for the 7f Ballerina. When she finished fifth, beaten 6 ¼ lengths, after contesting the first half-mile in 43.74 seconds with eventual winner Serengeti Empress, Gutierrez said he realized that his Breeders’ Cup plan would not work and stretched her out again to 9f.

“We switched our plans and went to the Shuvee, three weeks after,” he said. “I reconsidered very quickly and we moved again to the long distances.”

Letruska has run nine times since the Shuvee, all at a mile or more and has a 7-1-0 record. Using her speed, she has flourished at two turns and has won five straight races. 

“If we go a mile and a quarter, I think it is even better for her,” Gutierrez said. “The more distance, she has the chance to go a little bit more relaxed.”

Trainer Fausto Guiierrez with Letruska at Del Mar. (Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Beeders’ Cup/CSM)

Gutierrez, 54, discovered racing as small child in Spain, became a fan while growing up in Mexico, and moved toward a training career while in college. He spent about a decade working as a turf writer at a Mexico City newspaper before turning to training on full-time basis.

Gutierrez has developed the Kentucky-bred Letruska for St. George Stable LLC, owned by the Mexican billionaire German Larrea Mota-Velasco. She has won six of seven starts in 2021, four of them Grade 1, and is the leading contender to win the Eclipse Award as the older female dirt horse.

Majoring in communications in college, Gutierrez thought it would lead to a job in television or advertising. As a college freshman, one of his professors noticed that he had a sales catalogue with him. The professor, who had a horse in the sale, invited him to visit the backstretch with him and introduced him to a trainer. That meeting led to the start of his training career and a few years later into journalism 

“I had a good friend who liked (soccer) and he started to work for the Periodico Reforma. It is one of the most important in Mexico,” he said. “When the newspaper started, he called me. We are very good friends from the university, we finished together, and he told me ‘I’m looking for a person to write about the horses.’ A special (contributor), or something like that.  I thought, ‘why not?’

Gutierrez balanced the unusual combination of training and journalism for several years and often had to write about his own horses. He spent 1998 and 1999 training horses in Texas for Mexican owners while the track in Mexico City was closed. Gutierrez’s association with Larrea Mota-Velasco began in 2001 when the CEO of Mexico’s largest mining company asked him to represent him at the Keeneland sales following the 9/11 attacks.

The owner-trainer partnership grew into a massive, powerful stable and Gutierrez was the leading trainer at the country’s only track for 10 consecutive years. He twice won Mexico’s Triple Crown.

Gutierrez found international success and U.S. exposure when the Clasico del Caribe series was relocated to Gulfstream Park in 2017. His victories included Jaguaryu (MEX) in the 2017 Lady Caribbean; Jala Jala (MEX) in the 2017 Caribbean Classic and 2018 Confraternity Caribbean Cup; Kukulkan (MEX) in the 2018 Caribbean Classic and 2019 Copa Confraternidad del Caribe and Letruska in the 2019 Copa Invitacional del Caribe, facing older males as a 3-year-old filly.

Larrea Mota-Velasco decided that he wanted a division in the U.S. and Gutierrez brought Letruska and some other runners to Florida early in 2020. Letruska is the leader of his current 15-horse stable and his first Breeders’ Cup runner. He hopes to stay in the U.S. and building a bigger, but not too large, stable. 

“Any trainer to continue to be competitive needs to have material, to have horses,” he said. “I want to have an operation that I can control very closely. Maybe I can have 30 to 40 horses that I can pay attention to. In Mexico before I trained nearly 200 horses at the same time. It’s different. At this point, I prefer to be closer to the horses and make more decisions.” 

Malathaat in a morning work Nov. 3. (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Malathaat Todd Pletcher sent Malathaat out for a routine gallop Tuesday morning and said she has settled in well at Del Mar. He was satisfied with her post position. She will have John Velazquez aboard.

“She’s (post) three, which hopefully gives her the opportunity to get to the first turn and save a little ground.”

Thursday morning Malathaat galloped 1 ¼ m.

Pletcher resumed her timed works on Sept. 18 at Belmont Park, and she had seven, including a bullet 5f in 1:01.23 on Friday, before shipping from New York to Del Mar over the weekend.

“We’ve had a really good schedule with her,” Pletcher said. “She’s been breezing terrific, like she always does.”

Much was expected of yearling filly to be named Malathaat when Shadwell Stable purchased her for $1,050,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale. She has delivered.

With six wins in seven starts and more than $1.5 million in earnings, the 3yo daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin enters the Distaff as a serious contender to Letruska, the 8-5 favorite in the field of 11. She will face older horses for the first time. 

In her first start since a victory in the Alabama on Aug. 28 at Saratoga, Malathaat could become the 12th 3yo filly to win the $2 million Distaff – being run for the 38th time – and the fourth Kentucky Oaks winner to complete the double with the Distaff in the same year.

Monomoy Girl (2018), Untapable (2014) and Ashado (2004) are the only fillies to win both races in the same season. All three won the Eclipse Award as the division champion.

Royal Delta (2011) is the only Alabama winner to double in the Distaff as a 3yo, which led to a division title. 

Like her dam, Dreaming of Julia, who also was trained by Pletcher, and her second dam, Dream Rush, Malathaat is a Grade 1 winner. She has the highest-level trifecta for 3yo fillies on her resume: the Ashland, the Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama.

“She won the Ashland and then the Kentucky Oaks, and we gave some thought to running her in the Belmont (Stakes),” Pletcher said. “But we felt like she just lost a little bit of weight during the Ashland and the Oaks campaign. At that point we decided when we weren’t going to run in the Belmont to kind of come up with a plan for the rest of the season. We decided to go to the Coaching Club and Alabama and then not run between the Alabama and the Distaff.

“That’s kind of been the plan since May and fortunately everything is going according to plan minus winning the Coaching Club. I think she’s trained as well as ever and just seems like she’s coming into the race in good shape.”

Malathaat was upset by Maracuja in the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24 at Saratoga. She was pressed throughout in the four-horse field and was not able to hold off late-running Maracuja at the wire.

Pletcher has a 2-1-4 record with 20 starters in the Distaff. His winners were Ashado (2004) and Stopchargingmaria (2015). Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount.

“We would benefit from a good, honest pace,” Pletcher said. “Letruska is a forwardly placed filly, although I think she’s also had success when she’s not on the lead, but she’s usually going to be close. Hopefully we get a good, honest pace and a clean trip and we’ll see. It’s always a challenge running against older mares for the first time, but she’s put together a pretty impressive resume herself. We’re excited about it.”

Malathaat’s lone loss, by a head to Maracuja, came at Saratoga Race Course in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Marcuja, who was 14-1, pressed the 1-5 Malathaat early, retreated for a while under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. while Clariere presented the challenge, and rallied in the stretch.

“It was a tricky race,” Pletcher said. “There was a four-horse field. She drew the rail. There was no obvious speed on paper. And then they kind of ran relays at her. Santana made what turned out to be a smart decision and one that most of the time guys go to, to let their horse fall back in the middle part of the race and then come on again. It was one of those things that just nothing, nothing really went the way we wanted it to. She still ran courageously off the layoff and just couldn’t get her head down on the wire, but certainly made amends in the Alabama.”

Pletcher has a 2-1-4 record with 20 starters in the Distaff. His winners were Ashado (2004) and Stopchargingmaria (2015). Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount. Velazquez has a 2-0-3 record in 18 starts in the Distaff. His winners were Ashado (2004) and Forever Unbridled (2017). 

“It’s what you would expect from any Breeders’ Cup Distaff,” Pletcher said. “It’s a collection of the best fillies and mares in the country. You’ve got some speed in there. You’ve got some closers. You’ve got some 3-year-old fillies, the best older mares. It’s what you’d expect to see in the Distaff. Hopefully, there is a good, honest pace to run at and we can let our filly do her thing. She is kind of ideally suited to be a stalker. She enjoys a target.”

Marche Lorraine in a work on Nov. 1. (Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Marche Lorraine (JPN) – U. Carrot Farm’s Marche Lorraine (JPN) had a 3f breeze on the main track Tuesday before the morning track renovation session. She had a walk day on Wednesday. The Orfevre (JPN) daughter visited the starting gate and paddock Thursday morning and galloped 3f in 35.60 on the main track. 

Bred by Northern Farm, the 5yo mare will have Oisin Murphy aboard. Starting from post 10 carrying 124 lbs., she goes off at 30-1.

She won her last start, Breeders Gold Cup at Mombetsu Racecourse, Hokkaido, Japan, a “Win and You’re In” race, where she qualified for the Distaff.

With 20 starts, Marche Lorraine has 8 firsts, 2 seconds and 2 thirds with career earnings of $1,805,677. In 2021 she is 3-0-1 in 5 starts. 

Shedaresthedevil in an early morning work Nov. 2. (Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Shedaresthedevil – Flurry Racing Stable, Qatar Racing Limited and Big Aut Farm’s Shedaresthedevil, the winner of Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes in August, had an easy jog Tuesday morning under exercise rider Edvin Vargas, one day after arriving from Kentucky with her six stablemates. 

Shedaresthedevil had another easy gallop under Edvin Vargas Wednesday and Thursday mornings and visited the starting gate Thursday in her second to last day of training before the Distaff. 

The 4yo Daredevil mare is scheduled to be sold the Tuesday following the Breeders’ Cup at the Fasig- Tipton sale and the Distaff could be her last race.

“In this business, you have to lead with your head and not your heart,” Staton said. “There’s a lot of money on the table, so I think we’re doing the right thing. But it will be bittersweet.”

First, she will try to secure championship honors in a race that has been the plan since skipping the race last year after she finished third in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. One race earlier, she pulled the upset in the Kentucky Oaks at odds of 15-1. 

“This is obviously a bigger, tougher race this time around than the last one, but she’s training really well,” trainer Brad Cox said “And we’ve been waiting for this. I told someone earlier, we’ve been pointing for this race with her basically since the day after the Spinster last year. We decided to pull the plug on her, give her a break and campaign this year in an attempt to get her out here and have her peak in November. So far, that plan is working.”

The connections of the Daredevil filly have had the Distaff circled on their calendar since last October when they made the decision to bypass the 2020 edition following a third in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland. 

“We made a plan and it has worked out to T,” co-owner Staton Flurry said. “We mapped out our strategy and we stuck to it, including sending her here for the Clement Hirsch. It’s exactly what we did last year as well leading into the Oaks. Once we knew the rescheduled date, we just worked backward. It’s a testament to (trainer) Brad’s (Cox) and his team with how well it’s worked out.”

Shedarethedevil and Letruska, the Distaff favorite, have each beaten the other once this year and Cox believes his filly would be worthy of championship honors should she top her rival once again. Shedaresthedevil easily bested Letruska in the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn in March but had to settle for third when the two met in the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont in June. 

“I don’t have a vote, but I’d think (Shedaresthedevil) would be the champion if she wins the Distaff,” Cox said. “It would be her third Grade 1 this year and she would have beaten Letruska twice.” 

For videos of workouts, go to XBTV

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