Breeders’ Cup Distaff - Wed. notes

December 10, 2019

Belle Gallantey – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez maintained his enthusiasm about Beldame Stakes and Delaware Handicap winner Belle Gallantey’s chances in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff after her routine training Wednesday morning. The daughter of After Market went through a routine gallop around Santa Anita’s main track around 7 a.m. before returning to cool out at Barn 68 for owners Michael Dubb, Gary Aisquith and Bethlehem Stable.

“She galloped a mile and a half and looked like she galloped pretty good,” Rodriguez said of the 5yo mare. “She’s happy, so we’re happy. She was a little bit on her toes yesterday, so I got her out early. She looks good.”

A speedy mare whose best recent races – including her two aforementioned Grade I victories – have shown a front-running style, Belle Gallantey will have to contend with multiple other forwardly placed fillies or mares. Foremost, second-choice Close Hatches has also done her best running in wire-to-wire fashion.

“I'm not too sure where she’ll be. I’ll leave that up to (jockey) Jose (Ortiz),” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of speed, but he knows the filly pretty well. She doesn’t have to be on the lead, but if they leave her alone and she gets comfortable, she can be very good. She definitely wants to go the distance and is going to be very tough.”

Close Hatches - Juddmonte Farms’ seven-time Graded stakes winner galloped 1 1/4m Wednesday morning at the very end of the training period.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott accompanied the 4yo filly on his pony for her trip to and from the track and said she was doing well.

Close Hatches, out of Rising Tornado, comes from one Juddmonte Farms’ top families. Her sire, First Defence, is a Grade one-winning homebred. His dam is Honest Lady, who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2000. Honest Lady also has two famous brothers - Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and Arlington Million winner Chester House.

Don't Tell Sophia – Trainer Phil Sims and Jerry Namy’s Don’t Tell Sophia galloped Wednesday morning under regular exercise rider Kerrin Meyer.

“We backtracked around to the eighth pole and then let her pick it up a bit at the three-eighths pole so she can see where it is,” said Meyer, who has been Don’t Tell Sophia’s regular morning partner for the past 3 ½ years.

“She has matured a lot and really gotten better with age and has grown into her body,” Meyer said. “She is a cool horse to be around and is very expressive. She’s very special.”

Don’t Tell Sophia, a $1,000 sale purchase, will represent the second Breeders’ Cup starter for Sims.

“I really liked Hot Cha Cha the year we ran her at Churchill Downs,” Sims said. “She finished fifth in the (2010) Filly & Mare Turf, but was only beaten 1 ¼ lengths. She had a lot of trouble in the race and had to come from last.”

As for the vibe he’s getting from Don’t Tell Sophia, Sims said, “I try not to get overconfident or under-confident. I just like to have the horse do the talking.”

Iotapa – Iotapa walked in the stable area Wednesday morning, one day after a 5f breeze that was her final major exercise before the race.

The 4yo daughter of Afleet Alex has gotten off to slow starts in two of her last three races, a concern that trainer John Sadler has endeavored to address.

"We've stood her a lot in the gate and done a lot of gate work with her since her last race," Sadler said. "Sometimes she hasn't been a great gate horse, but we've been working with her and we think she's going to be just fine."

L'Amour de Ma Vie – see European report

Ria Antonia – Loooch Racing Stable (Ron Paolucci) and Christopher Dunn’s Ria Antonia did not waste any time getting reacquainted with the Santa Anita track by jogging at 6:30 Wednesday morning with Corey Black aboard.

“We got here at 5:30 last night, just in time to catch the rush hour traffic,” said Katie Allen, who traveled with the 3yo filly from her home base at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Trained by Tom Amoss, who is scheduled to arrive at Santa Anita Wednesday afternoon, Ria Antonia is scheduled to gallop in the morning at the same time and visit the paddock.

Paolucci was on hand to watch Ria Antonia train and he liked what he saw.

“I don’t know what has happened, but she looks better than she did last year,” Paolucci said of Ria Antonia, whose most recent victory came in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. “Before the Spinster, her color was back and her weight was back and I knew she was going to run a big race.”

The runner-up finish to Don’t Tell Sophia at Keeneland was Ria Antonia’s best showing since last year here.

“When you win the Breeders’ Cup, I don’t know how ambitious you can be other than the Preakness,” Paolucci said. “I know what kind of filly this is and if I had listened to everybodyn (last year), I would have run her in a non-winners of two lifetime at Woodbine.”

It was before her victory in the Juvenile Fillies that Paolucci knew his filly was sitting on a big race.

“I have a picture on my phone of her working with (Dirt Mile) winner Goldencents,” Paolucci said. “They weren’t actually working together, but they came through the lane neck and neck and she would not let him go by.”

Stanwyck – Stanwyck jogged three-quarters of a mile and galloped a mile Wednesday morning. An “easy day,” trainer John Shirreffs said to follow a strong gallop one day earlier.

Before the exercise, Sherriffs was found in her stall with energy source on his belt from which two wands were attached. Stanwyck, a 5yo daughter of Empire Maker, stood comfortably relaxed and appeared to luxuriate as Shirreffs rubbed the wands over her back and flanks.

“This is a laser, and she's getting a laser massage," Shirreffs explained. "It warms and stimulates the muscles and makes them more supple. You want them to be as supple as they can before a big competition like this. I go over the sensitive areas too, like where the (saddle) girth is cinched up.”

Tiz Midnight – Tiz Midnight, runner-up to defending Distaff champion Beholder in the Zenyatta Handicap, galloped 1 1/2 miles Wednesday morning.

The result in the Zenyatta, and subsequent withdrawal of Beholder from the Distaff due to a temperature, buoyed hopes in the Tiz Midnight camp. But there are still some concerns.

“Tiz Midnight is a very nervous type and how she handles the crowd will be very important for her,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “Last time it looked like she was catching Beholder, but I think Beholder was just getting a little tired. It gave us a lift toward starting her in this race because Beholder was the horse to beat. She has speed, so it will be important how she breaks, but she likes this track.”

Unbridled Forever – “She had great gallop again today,” said a smiling trainer Dallas Stewart as he watched Unbridled Forever cool out after her Wednesday morning exercise. “She went 1 3/8m on the main track, she was hitting the ground well and she came back in great shape.” Pedro Velez was in the saddle.

Stewart said the 3yo daughter of Unbridled’s Song would jog on Thursday as she heads into Friday’s Distaff.

Untapable – The Kentucky Oaks winner continues to impress trainer Steve Asmussen as she heads into the Distaff as the morning-line favorite.

“She trained beautifully this morning,” said Asmussen. “I feel very good with how she’s coming into the race. She’s an extremely talented filly. This is as good as she’s been and I feel really good because she’s run some strong races this year. We’re expecting another big race from her.”

Valiant Emilia – One of the unexpected twists in the Distaff is that the Mandella trainer family name will be represented by Gary with Peruvian import Valiant Emilia while his Hall of Fame father Richard is forced to pass after defending champion Beholder spiked a fever 10 days ago.

“I’m disappointed for Dad and Mr. Hughes (owner B. Wayne), but there is no question it improves our chances,” said Mandella. “Beholder is the best mare we’ve seen post-Zenyatta. The race is not easy but the field is lighter without her presence.”

One of the feathers in the cap of Richard during an illustrious career is his success in the Breeders’ Cup, in which he has won eight races, all at Santa Anita. Gary will carry the family banner this year with three entrants.

Valiant Emilia, who was tabbed at 20-to-1 in the morning line from post eight, galloped 1 ½ miles on the main track Wednesday with exercise rider Alfonso Avalas.

The 5yo mare will make her United States debut in the Distaff after joining the Mandella barn in August. In her last start June 22, she won the Clasico Cesar Del Rio Suito in Peru that was a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

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