December 5, 2023

Marche Lorraine springs massive Breeders’ Cup Distaff upset for Japan

Marche Lorraine ridden by Oisin Murphy wins the Breeders Cup Distaff at Del Mar race track (Photo by Horsephotos)

Two hours after Loves Only You provided Japan with its first Breeders’ Cup success, in the Filly and Mare Turf (G1), Marche Lorraine gave the Land of the Rising Sun a second and far more improbable victory when registering one of the biggest upsets in the history of the $1.84 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Making her first start in the U.S., as well as above Group 3 level, Marche Lorraine was a legitimate outsider on paper heading into this Distaff. Favored at 17-10 was the nation’s leading older mare, Letruska, a winner in six of her seven starts this year. Also attracting serious play was the pro-tem leader among three-year-olds, Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) heroine Malathaat.

The front-running Letruska didn’t make the lead, as is her custom, but ultimately rated far too close to an obscenely-hot pace set by Private Mission. The latter steamrolled through an opening quarter in :21.84, a half-mile in :44.97, and six furlongs in 1:09.70 in the 1 1/8-mile fixture.

“They didn’t want her to be on the lead. They went after her,” said Irad Ortiz Jr, the rider of Letruska. “She wants to run and I tried to slow her down as much as possible, but it didn’t work out.”

It proved only a matter of time before the closers kicked into gear. One of them, surprisingly, was Marche Lorraine, who made an impressive five-wide bid into contention around the far turn. Third choice Royal Flag followed on her outside, while Dunbar Road and Malathaat saved ground and advanced on the inside.

“To be honest, I could have waited a little longer going into the turn. But, I thought that if I waited longer then I’m going to be pushed wider going into the turn,” said winning jockey Oisin Murphy.

Taking command before hitting the stretch, Marche Lorraine soon turned back Royal Flag, while bumping between Dunbar Road and Malathaat stalled each other’s progress. Marche Lorraine’s two-length lead at the furlong pole was steadily whittled down by Dunbar Road as the wire approach but, in one of the closest finishes of the weekend, Marche Lorraine clung to victory by a nostril over Dunbar Road.

Owned by U Carrot Farm and trained by Yoshito Yahagi, who also trains Loves Only You, Marche Lorraine paid $101.80 after covering the trip in 1:47.67 over a fast track. The win mutuel has been exceeded in the Distaff only by 2000 winner Spain, who paid $113.80.

Dunbar Road finished a half-length in front of Malathaat, who nosed out fellow three-year-old Clairiere, who was much farther out on the track. Royal Flag faded to fifth, and was followed by Shedaresthedevil, Blue Stripe, As Time Goes By, Horologist, Letruska, and Private Mission.

The results of the Distaff are unlikely to affect the outcome of the two relevant Eclipse Award championships that were on the line. Letruska had virtually sewn up champion older dirt female honors before the Distaff, though her longshot chances of earning Horse of the Year took a major hit. Malathaat was the most consistent of her peer group, with three Grade 1 wins and narrow losses in two others.

Marche Lorraine was a four-time stakes winner on dirt in Japan, though none were graded as most of the more prestigious events in that country are contested on turf. She had placed once in three attempts at Group 3 level, but had still bankrolled more than $1.8 million in her homeland, owing to the country’s high purse structure. Her record now stands at 21-9-2-2, $2,845,677.

Bred in Japan by Northern Farm, Marche Lorraine is by Orfevre and out of Vite Marcher, by French Deputy.