Saturday’s $1.84 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) answered the questions of who’s the best older mare and who’s the top three-year-old filly in divisions that have seen multiple standouts this season.
It all came down to the stretch run, and Forever Unbridled definitively proved herself best of 2017 with a half-length victory under jockey John Velazquez. The Dallas Stewart-trained five-year-old turned back a furious late charge from Abel Tasman, who asserted herself as the top sophomore filly by easily beating all others in the race.
Champagne Room was one of those three-year-old fillies, and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) upset winner tried to lead all the way home from her rail post. Breaking on top, the bay lass posted splits of :23.79, :48.08 and 1:12.50 while chased by Paradise Woods to her outside.
Stellar Wind, vying for champion older female honors having gone unbeaten this season thus far, kept in close contact just inside of Paradise Woods on the rail while 2-1 favorite Elate settled outside.
Meanwhile, both Forever Unbridled and Abel Tasman found themselves in the back of the field early into the backstretch. Forever Unbridled was never out of touch with the group and Abel Tasman made up ground to stay in contact as well.
Paradise Woods and Elate drew even with Champagne Room rounding the turn, but Forever Unbridled came powering up on the outside. The Unbridled’s Song mare sailed past all rivals and grabbed command upon hitting the stretch.
Forever Unbridled got the jump on Abel Tasman, who followed that rival while widest of all. The older distaffer pulled off to a good lead while Abel Tasman was just uncorking her run under Mike Smith. The bay filly came flying late, but Forever Unbridled hit the wire first to finish 1 1/8 miles over the fast Del Mar dirt in 1:50.25.
Paradise Woods was no match for the top two, another three lengths behind Abel Tasman in third, but had a length to spare on Elate. Mopotism followed in fifth, while Champagne Room, Romantic Vision and Stellar Wind completed the order of finish.
Forever Unbridled paid $9.40 for the win, which moved her 2017 line to a perfect three-for-three. The Charles Fipke homebred finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, no match at that time for Beholder and Songbird, and returned June 17 at Churchill Downs to take the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2). After another break, the bay mare showed up at Saratoga on August 26 and secured a neck score in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1).
The Kentucky-bred mare competed twice as much last year, capturing the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), Beldame Stakes (G1) and Houston Ladies Classic (G3) while placing in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1), Personal Ensign and aforementioned Distaff. She also boasts a win in the 2015 Comely Stakes (G3) and third-place runs in that year’s Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G3).
Now 17-8-3-4 lifetime, Forever Unbridled has racked up a $3,186,880 career bankroll.
Forever Unbridled is out the Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemons Forever, who was also trained by Stewart and upset the 2006 running of the Kentucky Oaks (G1). That mare would go on to finish fifth in the same year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, but has far outshone her racing career in the breeding shed.
Lemons Forever’s third registered foal is Unbridled Forever, a full sister to Forever Unbridled who captured the 2015 Ballerina Stakes (G1) and placed in the previous season’s Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Acorn Stakes (G1). The sisters also have a Medaglia d’Oro half-brother named Forever d’Oro who ran third in last year’s Curlin Stakes.
Forever Unbridled’s second dam is the Tough Critic mare Critikola, a dual Group 2 winner in her native Argentina and multiple Grade 1-placed in the United States.