Rhododendron looks Blooming Lovely in the Filly & Mare

The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf has proved rewarding for the European raiders over the years.

Queen’s Trust was successful 12 months ago, joining Dank, Midday, Ouija Board twice, Islington and Banks Hill, as winners from this side of ‘The Pond’. Sir Michael Stoute has won two of the last four and has three victories in total. He stands alongside Chad Brown as the most successful trainer in the race.

It’s something of a surprise that with the talent at his disposal Aidan O’Brien is yet to add his name to the roll of honour. Misty For Me came close in 2011, when having stumbled out the gate she spent much of the race in last place. L’Ancresse almost caused a 50/1 upset for the team in 2003 when getting to within a neck of Islington.

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Saturday’s renewal sees last year’s top three lock horns once again. Sir Michael Stoute knows that the fast ground will be ideal for his returning heroine. Unfortunately for Queen’s Trust, the 1m1f trip, a furlong less than last year, on a trappy track like Del Mar, will certainly not. She needed every yard of last year’s mile and a quarter to get her nose ahead of Lady Eli, and it will take another Dettori masterclass to have the filly handy enough to successfully strike. She’ll be flying late-on, though maybe just too late.

Lady Eli is favourite to go one better this time. The track, trip and ground are all expected to suit this classy five-year-old, though it’s worth noting that favourites have a poor record in the race, with just a pair of wins from the last 10. She arrives off the back of a solid campaign, though rarely dazzles. She’s undoubtedly tough, and with everything seemingly in her favour, will take some beating.

In a year when little has gone wrong for Aidan O’Brien, he appears to have a major chance of finally landing the Filly & Mare, with the talented Rhododendron. She arrives relatively fresh having spent a part of the summer on the ‘easy list’. Her latest victory at Chantilly shows that she is back to something near her best, and with further improvement likely she should mount a huge challenge. She defeated her classy stablemate Hydrangea in France, on ground that would have been plenty soft enough. She was unlucky when runner-up in the Guineas back in May. And then ran into Enable when looking a non-stayer in the Oaks.

Wuheida goes for Charlie Appleby, and the Godolphin filly is sure to find the trip and conditions to her liking. She was only just behind Rhododendron in France and prior to that ran a cracker in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. Appleby appears confident of a huge run, adding cheekpieces in the hope of extracting further improvement. She should go close, though I fancy she’ll just come-up short.

The ground will certainly suit the Roger Varian-trained Nezwaah, though I’m far from certain as to whether she has the class to win here. She was devastating in the Pretty Polly earlier in the season, though faces far tougher opposition this time. It wouldn’t surprise me if she put in a bold display.

Along with the favourite, Chad Brown has another interesting pair that look capable of springing a surprise at decent odds. Dacita and Grand Jete have been performing consistently well on the American circuit throughout the summer, though it’s the latter that I fancy could go close. Owned by Juddmonte and beautifully bred, Grand Jete was very unlucky not to win the Grade One Beverly D Stakes when trapped on the rail. She’s a powerful traveller and as a four-year-old may well have further improvement to come. With luck in running I think she’ll go close.

I’m taking on the favourite, and am hoping that Aidan O’Brien’s sensational season continues with a victory in this for Rhododendron. She’s a class act and looks sure to go close. Chad Brown has a great record in the race, though it’s his unfancied Grand Jete that I’ll be having a few quid on at 20s to run into a place. Best of luck to those having a punt. It looks a terrific renewal.

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