Breeders’ Cup Distaff: Beholder, Stellar Wind, Songbird Lead Field
By Laura Pugh
Not to be upstaged by the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) run on Saturday, Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) drew an all-star field of its own. Seven of the eight starters are grade 1 winners, and three of those lovely ladies are champions. Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning juvenile filly Songbird, champion 3-year-old filly Stellar Wind and champion older Female Beholder will all meet in hopes of deciding which champion is the greatest.
Songbird, quite appropriately, drew the number one post position. The filly has never not taken a trip to the winner’s circle and has decimated every field she’s ever come across. She will be facing older mares for the first time in her career, and will quite possibly be given her greatest test to date at their hands.
Stellar Wind and Beholder are the obvious top two older ladies in the field, entering the Distaff off of a terrific rivalry this season. Stellar Wind drew post position five, while Beholder drew the far outside post in number eight. So far, the two mares have met three times, with Beholder edging Stellar Wind in the Vanity Stakes (GI), before Stellar Wind got the measure of Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (GI) and then Zenyatta Stakes (GI) in their latest meeting. Now they meet once more on the world’s most contentious stage, confronted by a swarm of new faces.
Among those faces are Curalina, I’m A Chatterbox, Forever Unbridled, Land Over Sea and the Argentine-bred Corona Del Inca. Curalina, a daughter of Curlin, has been one of the most consistent mares in the game. Out of 12 career starts, Curalina has managed to win six times with three of those wins being in grade ones. Only once has she failed to land in the top three, despite two thirds of her races coming in grade 1s.
I’m A Chatterbox, who drew post seven, enters the Distaff off of a runaway victory in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (GI) at Keeneland. The victory marked her second grade one victory of the season, with the first coming in the ten furlong Delaware Handicap (GI). The daughter of Munnings only has one loss this year in her four starts, which came in the Personal Ensign Stakes (GI) where she finished fourth in a blanket finish. Like Curalina, I’m A Chatterbox is no stranger to grade 1 competition and has been the picture of consistency during her career.
Forever Unbridled, who will break from post position number six, didn’t really hit her best stride until late in 2015 and carried that form into 2016. The daughter of Unbridled’s Song has finished no worse than third in her five starts in 2016, while capturing the Apple Blossom (GI) and Beldam Stakes (GI).
Land Over Sea is the only filly in the field that lacks a grade/group one victory, however it must be noted that she has spent the majority of her time chasing the aforementioned Songbird. The pair met up five consecutive times, three of those races coming in 2016, before she shipped to Fair Grounds and won the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) before finishing a closing second in the Kentucky Oaks (GI).
Finally, Corona Del Inca ships in to the U.S. from Argentina, after taking top honors in the “Win and You’re In” Criadores Stakes (GI). The filly is owned and trained by the same owner-trainer combination that brought over Calidoscopio, the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GI) winner who earned that victory in exciting last-to-first fashion.
The depth of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff speaks for itself. With three champions, seven grade/group one winners—five millionaires—it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Distaff doesn’t produce a finish worthy of its high billing.