January 23, 2018

Eclipse Awards on the line in Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Forever Unbridled readying on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) at Del Mar (c) Cecilia Gustavsson/Horsephotos.com

Two Eclipse Award winners will likely be decided on Friday when a field of eight goes in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Del Mar to cap off the first day of the World Championships.

Champion older female and champion three-year-old filly are on the line in the 1 1/8-mile contest, with the likes of Stellar Wind, Forever Unbridled, Abel Tasman, Elate and Paradise Woods all lining up.

Stellar Wind, already an Eclipse Award winner as the 2015 champion three-year-old filly, will be making her third appearance in the Distaff after running second in 2015 at Keeneland and fourth last year at Santa Anita Park. The Curlin mare is three-for-three in 2017 thus far, capturing the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), Beholder Mile (G1) and Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1). Victor Espinoza has been aboard the John Sadler star for all but two of her lifetime starts and will be holding the reins Friday.

Forever Unbridled got the best of Stellar Wind in last year’s Breeders’ Cup, finishing 2 1/2 lengths in front while third behind Beholder and Songbird. Since then the Dallas Stewart charge has captured the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) and Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) in her only two starts this year. The Unbridled’s Song five-year-old gets a jockey switch to John Velazquez, who last piloted her to a 2 1/4-length victory in the 2016 Apple Blossom.

Abel Tasman is the filly to beat in terms of champion three-year-old filly honors. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Quality Road has yet to finish worse than second this year and along the way has racked up wins in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Acorn Stakes (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) under returning rider Mike Smith. She finished second in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) most recently, but can secure an Eclipse Award by beating every other sophomore filly in this field.

Elate will do her best to derail Abel Tasman’s quest for an Eclipse, and holds an advantage in that she has already defeated older rivals. The Bill Mott trainee just missed by a head to Abel Tasman in the CCA Oaks but returned to dominate the Alabama Stakes (G1) and Beldame Invitational (G1) in her past pair by 13 3/4 lengths. Jose Ortiz has the call.

Paradise Woods has an outside chance of being named champion three-year-old filly if she does well. The Richard Mandella-conditioned daughter of Union Rags romped by 11 lengths in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) over Abel Tasman, but ran 11th in the Kentucky Oaks and sixth off a near four-month break in the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3). The bay lass rebounded in a big way last out to take wire the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) against her elders by 5 1/4 lengths, and keep regular rider Flavien Prat in the irons.

Romantic Vision posted a slight upset in the Spinster Stakes (G1) last out, earning her second straight graded win after a 1 1/4-length score in the Locust Grove Stakes (G3). The Rusty Arnold-trained mare retains Brian Hernandez Jr. for this contest.

Champagne Room was honored as last year’s champion two-year-old filly after upsetting the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at 33-1, but was well-beaten when third in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) while making her sophomore bow next out in February. The Peter Eurton trainee wouldn’t be seen in competition again until showing up recently to wire the September 24 Remington Park Oaks by 3 3/4 lengths.

Mopotism boasts a stakes wins and four graded placings for trainer Doug O’Neill. The Uncle Mo sophomore shows up in this spot off a fourth-place run in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing on September 23.

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