The most lucrative race of Friday's opening 2013 Breeders' Cup action is the Distaff, which is a female championship on dirt that covers one-and-one-eighth of a mile at Santa Anita Park.
Its $2 million prize is unmatched among the first five races in the series, making the finale all the more thrilling for the fans in attendance in Arcadia, Calif.
There are only six horses in the elite field, including two-time reigning champion Royal Delta, who won as the 8-to-5 favorite last year and has those same odds to pull off an unprecedented three-peat this time around.
A couple of contenders should give the reigning victor a strong push, though. Following a glance at all the competitors is a list of predictions as to who will finish in the money in the formerly dubbed Ladies' Classic.
|2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff Post Positions|
|1||Street Girl||Angel Castillo||Manuel Azpurua||30-1|
|2||Authenticity||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|3||Close Hatches||Joel Rosario||William Mott||6-1|
|4||Royal Delta||Mike Smith||William Mott||8-5|
|5||Beholder||Gary Stevens||Richard Mandella||5-2|
|6||Princess of Sylmar||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||9-5|
Win: Beholder (5-2)
In the "Win and You're In" Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes, Beholder rode to the winner's circle at Santa Anita, which gives her tangible, positive experience at this venue.
Even with a stumble out of the gates at the Kentucky Oaks, the filly finished second to Princess of Sylmar, with jockey Garrett Gomez getting the mount.
For this race, Hall of Famer Gary Stevens is in the saddle for trainer Richard Mandella, who has to feel good about his chances with the veteran aboard. Stevens rode Beholder to victory in the Zenyatta Stakes too.
The Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman documented Beholder's swift seven-furlong ride in preparation for the Distaff:
Granted, that was in practice, but to put that time in perspective, it averages 12.1 seconds per furlong. Royal Delta's winning time last year of 1:48.80 boasted an average of approximately 12.09 seconds per furlong in the nine-furlong jaunt.
It appears Beholder is showing no signs of slowing down, and with two other Grade 1 victories at Santa Anita earlier this year, she has the proven chops to pull the upset.
Place: Royal Delta (8-5)
It's hard to argue with Royal Delta's resume, and just about the only way to stop her is if someone simply runs better on Friday.
Jockey Mike Smith's win aboard Royal Delta in this race last year was his 16th at the Breeders' Cup overall, which gave him the all-time record, surpassing Jerry Bailey.
The five-year-old mare has shown a bit of age in recent starts, though, settling for second in two of her past four appearances.
That is going to be the case again. History is simply against Royal Delta, as no one has won this high-profile race three times in a row.
At least Royal Delta will get revenge over Princess of Sylmar, who beat her in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes on Sept. 28.
Show: Princess of Sylmar (9-5)
After bursting onto the scene at Churchill Downs as a 36-to-1 long shot, Princess of Sylmar has more than backed it up with three subsequent Grade 1 stakes wins.
The most recent of those triumphs was mentioned above—she beat Royal Delta at Belmont Park, providing a boost on this very track ahead of a race with such a prohibitive favorite in Royal Delta.
Those two being so close in odds is a testament to how far Princess of Sylmar has come in recent months.
She has displayed a knack for winning with six victories in seven previous high-profile starts, and there is no doubt this three-year-old filly is a viable contender.
It won't be quite enough to claim the top prize, but finishing in the money alongside her two top-notch superiors will be a strong result and should make her a heavy favorite if she runs again in 2014.