November 20, 2018

Sistercharlie clinches championship in Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Sister Charlie and John Velazquez prevail over Wild Illusion under William Buick to win the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs on November 3, 2018 (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

Peter M. Brant’s Sistercharlie missed her intended prep, and the pacemaker flubbed the job, but neither proved a hindrance in Saturday’s $1,786,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Rallying furiously off a pedestrian pace, the 3-1 chance nailed 5-2 favorite Wild Illusion to give trainer Chad Brown his fourth Filly & Mare Turf trophy, and likely clinching a championship for herself.

Sistercharlie already ranked as the U.S. divisional leader after a trio of top-level scores in the Jenny M. Wiley (G1), Diana (G1), and Beverly D. (G1). She was expected to use the Flower Bowl (G1) as her stepping stone, only to be ruled out of the historically productive Belmont prep by foot trouble. In her absence, stablemate Fourstar Crook capitalized for her first Grade 1, in what could be read as a compliment. By adding a Breeders’ Cup laurel, over an international cast, Sistercharlie has virtually wrapped up an Eclipse Award as champion turf female. (Edit: Premature verdict? Voters have an option for Enable in light of her Breeders’ Cup Turf [G1] heroics in her lone U.S. start.)

Stablemate Thais, earmarked for pacemaking duties, never got to the front. She may have lost her concentration standing in the gate for a while as Wild Illusion gave the crew fits refusing to load. Once she finally was driven in, several rivals had been cooling their heels in the gate, and the complexion of the race changed with Thais’ tardy start.

Instead, yet another of the Brown quintet, A Raving Beauty, took charge and nearly stole it. Magic Wand stalked the gray through fractions of :26.20, :51.81, 1:18.56, and 1:43.98 on the Churchill Downs course labeled “good,” but the firm-turf lover began to labor in upper stretch.

Then Wild Illusion, perfectly placed in fourth early, played her hand. Sistercharlie, produced from further back, covered her move with Hall of Famer John Velazquez. Wild Illusion was the first to nab A Raving Beauty in deep stretch, but the Godolphin shipper could not stave off the oncoming Sistercharlie. Forcing her neck in front on the wire, Sistercharlie negotiated 1 3/8 miles in 2:20.96.

By that margin, Brown recorded his second win of the 2018 championships following Newspaperofrecord’s tour de force in Friday’s Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). Wild Illusion’s trainer, Charlie Appleby, was just denied a second score at Churchill Downs, having sent out Line of Duty to win the Juvenile Turf (G1).

Wild Illusion, so close to a fourth Grade/Group 1 title, had three-quarters of a length to spare over A Raving Beauty to thwart a Brown exacta. Magic Wand soldiered on for fourth. Next came Athena; Eziyra; Fourstar Crook; Mom’s on Strike; Princess Yaiza; Santa Monica, rounding out the Brown battalion; Fuhriously Kissed; Paved, arguably most compromised by early trouble; Thais; and Peruvian import Smart Choice.

Sistercharlie boosted her earnings to $2,575,454 from her 11-7-3-0 line. An unlucky second in the 2017 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1) after a score in the Prix Penelope (G3), she also just missed in her American bow in last summer’s Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). A significant lung infection sidelined Sistercharlie until her Jenny Wiley comeback at Keeneland in April.

Quotes from Breeders’ Cup

Winning trainer Chad Brown on Sistercharlie: “She’s all class this horse and she knows where the wire is. She showed her heart there in the last stages.”

On third-place finisher A Raving Beauty: “She ran terrific. I’m very proud of her. She managed to stay the whole mile and three-eighths. Good filly, that horse.”

Sistercharlie’s Hall of Fame rider, John Velazquez: “We broke well and got a good position. They kind of bunched up in there to get to the first turn and then everyone started to crowd up because the pace wasn’t very fast. I liked where I was. She relaxed well where I was and was moving well past the wire the first time. From there I just bided my time with her. I followed (Wild Illusion) and she won.”

Trainer Charlie Appleby on runner-up Wild Illusion: “I’m delighted with her run. She’s run a fantastic race and has lost nothing in defeat. Coming into the race we felt that Chad’s filly (Sistercharlie) was the one we all had to beat, so full credit to him and his team on their win. Our horse is a consistent Grade 1 performer, but I feel one mile and two furlongs is really her ideal trip. All three of mine have performed this weekend, so I’m delighted with how everything has gone.”

Jockey William Buick on Wild Illusion: “The winner showed a really good turn of foot. I thought when I hit the front, I’d be able to open up a decent lead. I’m delighted with the filly. She ran really well and ran up to her standard.”

Javier Castellano, who rode third-placer A Raving Beauty: “I am very proud of her. We set a slow pace as we galloped along on the lead. I was surprised no one put any pressure on me. I rode the filly the way I was hoping for today. Those were two good horses that beat me but I am very proud of my filly.”

Frankie Dettori on sixth Eziyra: “On the last bend (third turn), I asked her to quicken and it was probably the first time in her life she’s been asked to do that (on a turn). I lost her right there.”

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