From Bob Ehalt
The news that Untapable won’t be running in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff due to a fever impacted the $2 million race in a number of ways.
Breeders’ Cup 2015For starters, it eliminated from the mix the defending champ and among the highest threats in this year’s edition at Keeneland Race Course.
It may make life easier in front for a speedster such as wedding favours, the 4-1 favorite at a controversial area.
Additionally, it means Sheer Drama will break from post 13 instead of 14.
She will still be breaking out of a place where she can be caught wide on the first turn, and she still faces the prospect of having to cover more ground than her rivals who attracted the first few articles.
But, hey, what is it they say about small favors? She doesn’t possess the worst post in a field of 14 to get Friday’s nationally televised race around the NBC Sports Network (5:35 p.m.).
Only the next-to-worst post.
“It’s what it is,” said trainer David Fawkes, that was not about to waive a flag and shout”no mas” after the”luck of the draw” worked against his 5-year-old mare.
In Sheer Drama, Fawkes has a horse in career-best form. A winner of just one of six starts in 2014, she came of age at five once she began her period at Gulfstream Park in January. After winning a Sunshine Millions bets and finishing second in the Grade 3 Rampart, she submitted her first graded stakes win when she romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Royal Delta.
A set of moment in graded stakes at Churchill Downs followed, after which she eventually broke through with back-to-back Grade 1 wins at the Delaware Handicap and the Personal Ensign in Saratoga in her last two starts. Unknown to a national point one year ago at this time, she’s now the 9-2 second choice in the morning line in the nation’s premier race for older fillies and mares.
She hasn’t raced in nine weeks since her triumph in the Aug. 29 Personal Ensign, however, the way she’s been coaching since then gives Fawkes enough confidence to believe she can win from any place.
“I was really disappointed in her big brother’s draw when he (Big Drama) drew the one post from the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 2010, and he won anyhow,” Fawkes said. “She has good tactical speed and I have a fantastic jockey (Joe Bravo). I think we will be fine. She is fast to escape the gate, and we will not have to hang out in there too . The draw is a downside. I believe everything is going to be nice.”
Godolphin Racing’s Wedding Toast, the 4-1 favorite, is also coming into the mile and an eighth Distaff that the right way as she posted a 5-length success over Untapable in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park on June 6 and then tuned up to the Breeders’ Cup with an easy 2 3/4-length winner over Curalina at the Grade 1 Beldame on Sept. 26.
A front-running winner in both the Phipps and Beldame, Wedding Toast drew post seven and it would be no surprise when jockey Jose Lezcano — recall him with Frosted from the Travers? — attempts to grab control of the BC Distaff in the start.
“She couldn’t be doing better,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “She is doing fabulous… She is doing so well, we believe she is the one to conquer.”
Both favorites will need to be at their best in a highly talented area that contains some familiar faces.
Got Lucky (6-1) was second to Sheer Drama in the Personal Ensign and then rallied strongly in the final furlong to take Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster with a neck over Untapable and Yahilwa (20-1) in a tight, three-horse finish, gaining valuable experience within the trail. Stopchargingmaria (5-1) was fourth in the Personal Ensign but before that won the Grade 3 Shuvee over Untapable and was second at the Grade 1 Madison Stakes this past spring at Keeneland.
There’s also some gifted 3-year-olds, such as I’m a Chatterbox (8-1), Curalina (12-1) and Stellar Wind (12-1), that can derive some optimism from Untapable’s victory as a 3-year-old in the past year’s BC Distaff.
They can also let out a sigh of relief that they do not have post 13.