By Bob Ehalt
The news that Untapable will not be running in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff due to a fever impacted the $2 million race in a number of ways.
Breeders’ Cup 2015For starters, it removed from the combination that the defending champ and one of the highest threats in this year’s edition at Keeneland Race Course.
It may make life easier in the front end for a speedster like Wedding Toast, the 4-1 favorite in a contentious area.
It also means Sheer Drama will break from post 13 instead of 14.
She will still be breaking out of a place where she can be caught wide on the first turn, and she faces the possibility of having to pay more ground than her competitors who attracted the first couple of posts.
But, hey, what’s it they say about small favors? At least she doesn’t possess the worst place in a field of 14 for Friday’s nationally televised race around the NBC Sports Network (5:35 p.m.).
Only the next-to-worst post.
“It’s what it is,” said coach David Fawkes, that wasn’t about to waive a white flag and shout”no mas” after the”luck of the draw” worked against his 5-year-old mare.
In Sheer Drama, Fawkes has a horse in career-best form. A winner of just one of six starts in 2014, she came of age at five when she started her period at Gulfstream Park in January. After winning a Sunshine Millions bets and finishing second in the Grade 3 Rampart, she submitted her first graded stakes win when she romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Royal Delta.
A set of second in graded stakes at Churchill Downs followed, and then she eventually broke through with back-to-back Grade 1 wins at the Delaware Handicap and the Personal Ensign at Saratoga in her last two starts. Unknown on a national stage a year ago at this moment, she is now the 9-2 second choice in the morning line in the nation’s highest race for older fillies and mares.
She hasn’t raced in fourteen days since her win in the Aug. 29 Personal Ensign, however, the way she’s been coaching because then gives Fawkes enough assurance to think she can win from any place.
“I was really disappointed in her big brother’s draw when he (Big Drama) attracted the 1 post in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at 2010, and he won anyway,” Fawkes said. “She’s got great tactical speed and I have a good jockey (Joe Bravo). I believe we will be fine. She’s fast to get out of the gate, and we will not have to hang out in there too . The draw is a downside. I believe everything else is going to be nice.”
Godolphin Racing’s Wedding Toast, the 4-1 favourite, is also coming into the mile and an eighth Distaff that the right manner as she posted a 5-length success over Untapable from the Ogden Phipps in Belmont Park on June 6 after which gearing up to the Breeders’ Cup with a simple 2 3/4-length winner within Curalina in the Grade 1 Beldame on Sept. 26.
A front-running winner at both the Phipps and Beldame, Wedding Toast drew post seven and it’d be no surprise if jockey Jose Lezcano — recall him with Frosted from the Travers? — tries to seize control of the BC Distaff in the beginning.
“She couldn’t be doing better,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “She is doing fabulous… She is doing this well, we think she’s the one to conquer.”
Both favorites will need to be in their best in a highly talented area that includes some familiar faces.
Got Lucky (6-1) was next to Sheer Drama at the Personal Ensign and then rallied strongly in the final furlong to shoot Keeneland’s Grade 1 Spinster with a neck over Untapable and Yahilwa (20-1) in a tight, three-horse end, gaining valuable experience over the trail. Stopchargingmaria (5-1) was in the Personal Ensign but before which won the Grade 3 Shuvee over Untapable and was second in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes this past spring at Keeneland.
There is also some gifted 3-year-olds, such as I’m a Chatterbox (8-1), Curalina (12-1) and Stellar Wind (12-1), that can derive some optimism from Untapable’s success as a 3-year-old in last season’s BC Distaff.
They’re also able to let out a sigh of relief they don’t have post 13.