Breeders’ Cup Distaff - Tuesday notes

December 10, 2019

Belle Gallantey – The 5yo New York-based mare has adapted well to her new Santa Anita surroundings, according to trainer Rudy Rodriguez. The chestnut mare arrived Sunday around 3 p.m., and jogged Monday. Tuesday morning she galloped a mile and a half.

“She really shipped good and is looking and eating well,” Rodriguez said. I’m happy with the way she is. We don’t have to do too much with her – just keep her sound and happy. She just galloped today. We just drop the reins and let her do what she wants to do and be comfortable.”

The Kentucky-bred completed her last serious work before the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Aqueduct on Oct. 25 – working 5f in 1:02 4/5.

“On Saturday, her work in New York was really good,” Rodriguez said. “She did it the way I wanted her to.”

The daughter of After Market is conditioned by the former Bobby Frankel assistant for owners Michael Dubb, Gary Aisquith and Bethlehem Stables and will break from post four under Jose Ortiz for Friday’s race.

“We’ll keep galloping her a mile and a half the rest of the week,” Rodriguez continued. “If they open the track on Friday morning, I’ll probably jog her a mile to keep her calm. She’s a very big and strong filly and can be very hyper. As soon as you get on her, she transforms herself like a good horse does.”

Close Hatches – Juddmonte Farms’ Distaff contender had some light exercise on the Santa Anita track Tuesday morning, just a few hours after shipping from New York.

Since the flights that brought horses from Kentucky and New York were delayed and his horses did not get into their stalls until after midnight, trainer Bill Mott sent his runners out to jog or for light gallops.

Close Hatches, a 4yo by First Defence, moved to the top of the older filly and mare division with wins in the Azeri, Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps and Personal Ensign. Her win streak came to an end on Oct. 5 at Keeneland when she finished fourth as the 1-5 favorite in the Spinster. Some three weeks later, Mott can’t explain what went wrong that Sunday afternoon.

“The only thing that we can think of, and I can’t guarantee why, but maybe she didn’t like that racetrack,” he said. “I don’t know and that’s the only thing I can come up with. She’s pretty honest.”

Mott said he is happy with the way the filly is coming up to the race.

“She’s been fine. She looks good and has been doing good,” he said. “She was doing good going into the last one, so it was a little bit of a head scratcher, I suppose.”

Close Hatches finished second to Beholder in last year’s Distaff and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line for Friday’s race. She and Joel Rosario will start from the outside post in the field of 11.

Don’t Tell Sophia – Trainer Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia, who punched her ticket to the Distaff with a victory in the Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 4, galloped 1 3/8m Tuesday morning, her second morning on the track under exercise rider Kerrin Meyer.

“She shipped fine Sunday. It was her first time to fly,” Sims said. “But I think you could put her on the Space Shuttle and it would not bother her.”

The Spinster victory was the second for Don’t Tell Sophia since coming off a near six-month layoff for the Locust Grove at Churchill Downs on Sept. 6.

“She had a quarter crack that popped five days before the Azeri,” Sims said referring to a race at Oaklawn Park on March 15 in which she finished third behind Distaff rival Close Hatches. “She ran in a bar shoe that day. The crack was way back in her heel where you couldn’t patch it. She belongs to me, so I just gave her the time off.

“We just let it grow out. We walked her a lot and shedrowed her. I just didn’t want to turn her out in the field.”

This is the first trip to Santa Anita for Sims, who bases his 35-horse stable for most of the year at Keeneland and goes to Oaklawn Park for its January-April meet.

“I came out Sunday and watched some races and noticed the track seemed to play to speed,” Sims said. “It seems the trainers here are more geared for speed than we are.”

Iotapa – The 4yo daughter of Afleet Alex breezed 5f in l:01 Tuesday morning. “Just nice and easy, a little blowout,” trainer John Sadler said.

Sadler claimed Iotapa for $50,000 in June 2012 and she has gone on to win three Graded stakes, topped by the Vanity at Santa Anita in June and Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar in August among six wins in 13 starts for earnings of $832,796.

“She’s playing with house money,” Sadler said. “She’s been very consistent since we claimed her. She’s only been off the board one time (in 12 starts) for us. We’re very happy with her. We’ll decide after the race if she goes back to Kentucky or not, but I’m inclined to bring her back. She’s entered in the November broodmare sale, like a lot of them are, but chances are I’ll take her out.”

L’Amour de Ma Vie – see European report

Ria Antonia – Loooch Racing Stable and Christopher Dunn’s Ria Antonia left Kentucky Tuesday morning for a return to Santa Anita, the site of her adjudicated victory in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Waiting for her when she gets here will be jockey Paco Lopez, who rode the 3yo filly for the first time on Oct. 5 at Keeneland in the Spinster.

“That day at Keeneland was the first time on her,” Lopez said. “That was one of the reasons we came to Kentucky from New Jersey was to find a good horse. I like this filly and she ran a tough race in the Spinster.”

In the Spinster, Ria Antonia pressed the pace set by 1-5 favorite and Distaff rival Close Hatches, took over in upper stretch but could not hold off the late bid of Don’t Tell Sophia, finishing second beaten 2 ½ lengths at the Distaff distance of 1 1/8m.

“I wanted to get her in the race and not let Close Hatches get too far in front,” Lopez said. “I was a little surprised she went by her the way she did. When she got to the front, she wanted to wait on horses, but the winner went by us so fast.”

Lopez, who rode Pants On Fire to a seventh-place finish in the Dirt Mile here last year, arrived at Santa Anita Sunday, a day after finishing the Fall Meet at Keeneland.

“I rode two here on Sunday,” Lopez said. “I like this track and I know she likes this track from the way she ran last year.”

Stanwyck – The plan for the 5yo Empire Maker mare on Tuesday was to “just get around the track, not too fast and not too slow,” said trainer John Shirreffs.

“She’s been very consistent all year long,” Shirreffs said of Stanwyck, who started her 2014 campaign at Santa Anita with placings in the Santa Maria and Santa Marguerita Stakes before shipping to Arkansas and then New York for four subsequent starts.

“I think in her last race (fourth in the Beldame at Belmont Park) she got caught on a bit of a speed-biased track that didn’t fit her very well. She’s done well at Santa Anita (4 starts, 1 win, 1 second, 2 thirds) and Santa Anita has a two-turn configuration. Belmont’s one turn (for 1 1/8 miles) and I think that with two turns, the speed’s not going to get that far in front of her, the second turn’s going to slow it down a little bit. I think we have a good chance here.”

Tiz Midnight – Trainer Bob Baffert, dealing with the defection of his morning-line favorite in the Juvenile, American Pharoah sent his Distaff hopeful to the track for an easy gallop Tuesday morning.

Unbridled Forever – Trainer Dallas Stewart sent his Distaff prospect out for a 1 3/8m gallop over Santa Anita’s main track Tuesday morning that left the trainer smiling and saying, “She seems to be doing really well. She’s giving us the feeling that she’s very happy.”

Stewart’s plans for the rest of the time leading up to Friday’s prime Breeders’ Cup race call for pretty much the same program. Will she go to the gate or school in the paddock? “Nah, she doesn’t need any of that,” he said.

Regular exercise rider Pedro Velez was up for the morning exercise.

Untapable – The morning line favorite returned to the track Tuesday, two days after posting her final workout at Santa Anita. The Tapit filly was sent to California right after she won the Cotillion at Parx Sept. 20 and trainer Steve Asmussen hopes that keeping a proven path will result in a big race Friday.

“Getting to California early has worked extremely well for our horses,” said Asmussen. “It worked a few years ago when we sent My Miss Aurelia out right after her Cotillion win and she ran second to Royal Delta.

“(Untapable) has had a chance to settle. She’s doing extremely well. We’re expecting a big race out of her.”

Valiant Emilia – Trainer Gary Mandella hopes that the Peruvian mystery mare is primed for an upset in her United States debut in the Distaff Friday.

“She’s here because her last race in Peru was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup,” explained Mandella of a victory by the 5yo mare in the Clasico Cesar Del Rio Suito at Monterrico on June 22 in her last start. “It was a real good race. A number of other fillies came in for it.”

Valiant Emilia joined the Mandella barn at Del Mar in August. “Michael Matz recommended me to her owners,” said Mandella, son of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. “The plan was to run her in the Zenyatta Stakes here as a prep but she missed some training at Del Mar and was not fit enough.”

“I think she will be midpack,” said Mandella of her running style. “She’s kind of a grinder. She will cut out 12’s all around (12 seconds for an eighth). It would be better if the race was longer.”

The mare has won 11 of 23 starts for Peruvian owners Bernardo Calderon and his wife, who were here for the draw Monday. “They own a large farm in Peru with 100 broodmares and have another 10 in Kentucky” said Mandella. “They have one of the favorites for the Peruvian Derby the week after the Breeders’ Cup.”

Valiant Emilia galloped 1 ½ miles with exercise rider Alfonso Avalos.

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