Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Is handicapping a race with six horses in the field easier than handicapping a field of 14?
That's a rhetorical question because just six fillies and mares have been entered in next Friday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff, formerly Ladies' Classic, which concludes the first day of racing for the 2013 World Championships.
Although post positions have yet to be drawn, there's no real need to wait till then to handicap this championship race. With just six horses in the field, post position means nothing as a full field of 14 would have meant that post 6 would have been a highly desirable position from which to break.
Two-time defending winner Royal Delta is the likely favorite with leading 3- year-old filly Princess of Sylmar right behind her in the morning-line.
Joining the top two is last year's champion 2-year-old filly Beholder along with Cotillion Stakes winner Close Hatches, 6-year-old mare Authenticity and 3-year-old filly Street Girl out of Florida,
Royal Delta will have the opportunity to avenge her loss to Princess of Sylmar in the Beldame Stakes on Sept. 28. The filly, ridden by Javier Castellano, went past the champion mare down the stretch to post a two-length win in the 1 1/8-mile stakes, the same distance as the Distaff.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Princess of Sylmar has won six of seven starts this year, including her last four starts and is virtually guaranteed of being voted the Eclipse Award as 2013 champion 3-year-old filly.
Trained by Bill Mott, Royal Delta had placed herself in the Horse of the Year discussion going into the Beldame following her impressive wins in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign. The loss to the filly at Belmont Park put the 5-year-old out of the running for two Eclipse Awards, but she too has wrapped up the Older Female title.
Spendthrift Farm's Beholder, trained by Richard Mandella, won last year's Juvenile Filly, but has remained in California for the year except for a second-place finish to Princess of Sylmar in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. The filly had the summer off and came back with wins in the Torrey Pines Stakes and versus older females in the Zenyatta Stakes.
Close Hatches, also trained by Mott, rebounded from a seventh in the Kentucky Oaks to win the Mother Goose Stakes as well as the Cotillion. The Distaff will be her first race against older horses, but does have a win versus Princess of Sylmar early this season in the Gazelle.
Pletcher will also saddle 6-year-old mare Authenticity in just her 12th career start after not racing in 2012. Her last two starts resulted in second-place finishes behind both Royal Delta and her stablemate.
The outsider in the field will be 3-year-old Street Girl, trained by Manny Azpurua. Street Girl had been racing exclusively in Florida until her two most recent starts. She was fourth at Saratoga in the Ballerina after trailing the 10-horse field and she got third to Close Hatches in the Cotillion at Parx Racing.
A small, but solid field for the Distaff. Two who have already been champions and a third that is about to be crowned
Royal Delta doesn't lose two in a row and until otherwise proven, the mare is the pick to post her third straight win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.