ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Not that the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes isn't a terrific race. It is. But an objective look at what directly precedes and follows the Beverly D. on the American stakes schedule says quite a bit about its ever-evolving stature within the filly-mare turf division.
"You've got the Diana at Saratoga the weekend before, and the [John C.] Mabee at Del Mar the weekend after," said locally based trainer Mike Stidham, who will saddle Tizaqueena as a fringe contender Saturday in the $750,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park.
"Both of those races are Grade 1's, too, so you're automatically going to lose some top horses that otherwise might have come here to Chicago," said Stidham. "Strictly from my viewpoint as someone with a horse in the race, that's a good thing, but for Arlington, you'd sure like to see them have a monstrous kind of race for their biggest weekend of the year."
In other words, it is what it has become. Before the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf came into being in 1999, the Beverly D. was a midsummer race that was absolutely crucial in deciding divisional honors. Today, the reality is that it serves a more meaningful master -- which is not to say horsemen are willfully dodging it as they plot their courses toward the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup. The Beverly D. is a Win and You're In race, with victory assuring a berth in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Indeed, three Grade 1 winners are among the field of eight entered in the 20th running of the Beverly D., which is carded as the eighth of 12 Saturday races at Arlington (post time, 3:52 p.m. Central, to be televised on ESPN). One of those, Pure Clan, is the likely favorite. A Kentucky-based filly, she showed her class last summer by taking the Grade 1 American Oaks and has prepped toward the Beverly D. with a pair of solid efforts to open her 4-year-old campaign.
"She can take back, or she will be up near the front if that's what I need her to do," said her jockey, Julien Leparoux, who won the Beverly D. three years ago aboard the favorite, Gorella. "She is a very mature filly now, a very good one."
The other Grade 1 winners in the Beverly D. field are Black Mamba, the lone California representative, and Dynaforce, the only shipper from New York. Historically, the Beverly D. has been dominated by horses from either coast.
Black Mamba, owned by Chicago native Richard Templer and trained by John Sadler, won the Mabee last summer, while Dynaforce won the Flower Bowl last fall at Belmont Park. Dynaforce, whose recent form has not been particularly sharp, is owned by her breeder, Dr. John A. Chandler, and is trained by Bill Mott, the Hall of Famer who won the 2000 Beverly D. with Snow Polina.
"I think she could improve this time," hinted Mott.
As usual, a critical component to the 1 3/16-mile Beverly D. will be the pace, which Stidham figures will be contested, if not set outright, by Tizaqueena, a 4-year-old owned by the Darley powerhouse. The Canadian shipper, Points of Grace, also has contending speed, and it remains to be seen what strategies will be employed by European invaders such as Denomination and Alnadana, both of whom have flashed occasional early foot in their overseas outings.
"A couple of the Euros have some speed, but you never really know how to translate their speed to our speed," said Stidham. "We're comfortable with what we need to do, which is break and see what everyone else is doing. Our best races probably have been where she's sat second off something, then gone on and been pretty good at holding off the closers late."
Denomination, the lone 3-year-old in the field, is based in France with trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, who won the 1994 Beverly D. with Hatoof. Alnadana, a gray 4-year-old, also is based in France and is owned by the Aga Khan, who won the 1996 Beverly D. with Timarida.
Mad About You, a 4-year-old Irish filly, completes the lineup. A Moyglare Stud homebred, she has finished third or better in 11 of 13 career starts and will be stretching out off a seven-furlong, Group 3 race at The Curragh in her homeland.
The Beverly D., named for the late wife of Arlington chairman Richard Duchossois, was won last year by Mauralakana, ridden by Kent Desormeaux. Mauralakana, since retired, was the second Beverly D. winner in a row, and a record third overall, for trainer Christophe Clement, who previously won with England's Legend (2001) and Royal Highness (2007).