BREEDERS' CUP LADIES' CLASSIC | PURSE: $2 MILLION | GRADE 1 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/8 MILES
The Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic didn't draw the largest field, but it attracted eight fillies and mares that could put on quite a show in the $2 million event Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
Besilu Stables' Royal Delta was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race. But as an indication as to the depth of the field, Include Me Out, a Grade 1 winner at Santa Anita, is 15-1, while Class Included, with 10 wins and six seconds in 16 starts in the Northwest and British Columbia, is 30-1.
Trainer Dale Romans, who doesn't even have a horse in the race, called it one of the best two races in the Breeders' Cup series along with the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Royal Delta, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly trained by Bill Mott, arrived at Santa Anita the afternoon of Oct. 29 on flight that left Islip, N.Y., at 1 a.m. the same day. The filly reportedly suffered an abrasion on the trip and was treated with antibiotics.
Royal Delta, who drew post 6 and will be ridden by Mike Smith, destroyed the field in the Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park in her last start Sept. 29, and earlier this year won a pair of grade II stakes: the Delaware Handicap and the Fleur de Lis. She has never raced at Santa Anita.
Stronach Stables' Awesome Feather, 10-for-10 lifetime, is the 3-1 second choice in the morning line. The 4-year-old Awesome of Course filly raced only twice this year -- in January and in September -- for trainer Chad Brown, who has wisely picked his spots.
In her last start off the layoff, Awesome Feather easily won a one-mile stakes at Belmont in freakishly fast time to signal her readiness. She has been working well at Belmont and will be ridden as usual by Jeffrey Sanchez from post 5.
Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's My Miss Aurelia and Godolphin Racing's Questing are the 4-1 co-third choices in the Ladies' Classic. In their last appearances, the 3-year-old fillies ran one-two in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing, with My Miss Aurelia just getting past Questing at the wire in a slowly run race.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Alabama Stakes winner Questing (by Hard Spun), indicated there will be no rating the filly this time around.
"We're going to make some solid pace for Ron [Ellis, trainer of Include Me Out]," McLaughlin said. "We think she's probably better going on and doing her thing."
Questing, to be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from post 4, also won the grade I Coaching Club American Oaks this year and quickly became the talk of her division.
Ellis, meanwhile, noted that only two of the entrants in the Ladies' Classic -- Jay Em Ess Stable's Include Me Out and Green Hills Farm's Love and Pride -- have raced on the Santa Anita dirt."
"I don't think it would be too much to turn the tables," Ellis said of Include Me Out, who has three wins, a second, and a third in six local starts. "[The Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes, won by Love and Pride] wasn't a very important race for us. I was easy on her after the Del Mar meet, and I think she's cranked up for this race. I think she'll be laying closer than last time."
"I've decided the nice thing about being under the radar is they're not going to be out looking for us to make trouble for us," said Samantha Siegel of Jay Em Ess.
Also in the field is Grace Hall, who has more than held her own in top company and last time out won the Indiana Oaks. The Ladies' Classic is the ninth race on a 10-race Friday card.