Breeders Cup Distaff Trends
The Distaff, or Ladies' Classic as it was briefly called, is run over the same course and distance as the Classic itself, and has an impressive roll of honour, including the likes of Royal Delta twice, Azeri, and story horse, Zenyatta.
Staying on Royal Delta for a moment, she'll be five this time around and is bidding for a hat-trick - or three-peat as they say in the US of A. Like many other fans of the sport, I hope she does it. There are bets to be made in most races, but sometimes a race is made for watching rather than wagering and, if such a thing exists at Breeders Cup 30, then this is that.
The key to a Santa Anita Distaff might well be being on, or close to, the lead. That has been the case with all four of the Santa Anita Distaff's run on dirt. The two run on Pro-Ride went to closers, but dirt is not Pro-Ride.
Expect Royal Delta to be prominent early, and expect others to try to harass her there.
Breeders Cup Distaff Other Key Trends
It generally takes a battle-hardened filly or mare to win the Distaff, and eighteen of the last 22 winners had between six and eight previous runs that season. Royal Delta enters off a perfect profile six efforts.
It's a feature of almost all Breeders Cup races, and one as prestigious as the Distaff is bound to demand it too: a horse simply MUST have run well last time out to have any chance of winning the Distaff.
Last year, Royal Delta won the Beldame by nine lengths; the year before, she ran second to Havre de Grace; in 2010, Unrivaled Belle was second in the Beldame...
...Life Is Sweet ran two lengths behind Zenyatta in a Grade 1 in 2009; and in 2008, Zenyatta herself won the Lady's Secret - a Grade 1 - by three lengths.
The list goes on and on. A placed effort, or within three lengths of the winner, last time out is a fundamental requirement for Breeders Cup winners.
No filly has won the Distaff after more than 35 days off the track since 1998. A recent run looks extremely important in that context.
A win or close up placed effort in a Grade 1 is also an important attribute shared by most Distaff winners this century. Royal Delta was a Grade 1 winner in her two Ladies Classic-winning seasons, and Unrivaled Belle was second in three straight Grade 1's prior to taking gold in this.
Before that, Life Is Sweet and Zenyatta both had Grade 1 seasonal success on their résumé. Ditto Ginger Punch in 2007, while Round Pond in 2006 had finished third in the G1 Beldame on her previous start and had won a Grade 1 as a juvie in the previous season.
Four-year-olds have won twelve of the last eighteen renewals of the Distaff, with three-year-olds chipping in with all bar one of the remaining six renewals. In that regard, Royal Delta has it to do.
That said, Escena in 1998 and, before here, One Dreamer ('94), Paseana ('92), and Bayakoa ('89 and '90), had all won aged either five or six. So it's far from impossible, even if the balance of data leans towards a younger lady.
Breeders Cup Distaff Key Prep Races
As you'll have guessed if you've read from the top, there are some key prep races for this. The most notable pair are the Beldame at New York's Belmont Park for East Coasters, and the Zenyatta (formerly known as the Lady's Secret) run on the same track as the Distaff itself.
The Spinster and the Personal Ensign, as well as the Clement L Hirsch make up the remainder of the WAYI races.
Royal Delta won the Personal Ensign this year, and was second to Princess Of Sylmar in the Beldame. Lady Of Fifty won the Clement L Hirsch, while Beholder easily took the Zenyatta and Emollient also did it well in the Spinster.