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Breeders' Cup 2013: Analysis and Predictions for Friday's Distaff Finale

ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Fort Larned ahead of Mike Smith on Mucho Macho Man to win the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on November 3, 2012 in Arcadia, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 31, 2013

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.

Note: All background information is courtesy of BreedersCup.com, and race history was obtained from Equibase.com unless otherwise indicated.

 

2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff Post Positions
PostHorseJockeyTrainerOdds
1Street GirlAngel CastilloManuel Azpurua30-1
2AuthenticityJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher8-1
3Close HatchesJoel RosarioWilliam Mott6-1
4Royal DeltaMike SmithWilliam Mott8-5
5BeholderGary StevensRichard Mandella5-2
6Princess of SylmarJavier CastellanoTodd Pletcher9-5
Source: BreedersCup.com

 

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)

/Getty Images

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.

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