09/17/2012 9:58AM

The Cotillion, the Pa. Derby, and Wise Dan


One of the most appealing pre-Breeders’ Cup matchups this fall (I know it’s not technically fall yet, but it is from racing perspective) is the one this Saturday between Questing and My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing.

Of course, given the overwhelming way Questing won the CCA Oaks and Alabama at Saratoga, one might wonder how much of a matchup there could possibly be in any race this filly is in right now. Especially after the horrible injury last week that befell Potesta, who at the time was Questing’s main threat in the division. And especially when My Miss Aurelia’s comeback victory in the overnight Mandy’s Gold Stakes is viewed in context of Questing’s last two scores.

My Miss Aurelia’s performance in the Mandy’s Gold was, frankly, messy. She broke awkwardly, didn’t change leads when she should have and lugged in significantly in the stretch. My Miss Aurelia didn’t win by the 15 lengths some might have expected her to win by, which was unfair because she was coming back off a nine month absence. She did win by three lengths, primarily because she just has so much class.

Questing’s two stakes scores weren’t exactly picture perfect either, but they both had the wow factor that compensates for many imperfections. In the stretch of the CCA Oaks, Questing ran sideways almost as much as she ran forward, but she still drew away to score by more than four lengths over Zo Impressive, who at the time was arguably the leader of the 3-year-old filly division. And her Alabama, well, that was a performance that will not soon be forgotten by anyone who watched the race. Questing set fractions for a 10 furlong race that would undo the vast majority of horses regardless of age or sex, and yet she kept right on going despite again misbehaving in the stretch, although not as severely. Questing won by nine, which is plenty, but given the pace she set and her playfulness in the stretch, she was about 20 lengths the best.

The Cotillion will be My Miss Aurelia’s first start around two turns in almost 11 months. It will also be run at an 8.5 furlong distance that is shorter than the Alabama and CCA Oaks, and should, given her running style, be in Questing’s favor. And yet, there seems to be this quiet confidence coming from the My Miss Aurelia camp that is most interesting. They don’t seem at all interested in ducking this battle, in which they will be the underdog, and don’t seem the least bit concerned with protecting My Miss Aurelia’s record, which you unfortunately see too frequently with undefeated horses like her.

Let’s not forget that My Miss Aurelia emphatically won the Frizette and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall, and you don’t win those races the way she did unless you are really something special. My Miss Aurelia was a towering 2-year-old filly champion, and I learned a long time ago to never underestimate a champion. I’ve got a feeling that this Cotillion will be a lot more of a battle than recent performance says it should be.

Also to be run at Parx Saturday is the Pennsylvania Derby, which will be billed as the means to settle the Travers dead-heat between Alpha and Golden Ticket. But the one I hope ships and runs in it is Fed Biz.

Early this year, Fed Biz was my Kentucky Derby horse. I was taken with him when he won his first two starts around two turns, both after attending fast early paces. But Fed Biz was taken out of training after the second of those victories when he wasn’t quite right, and never made it to Kentucky. He did make it back to the races late in the Del Mar meet, however, and stayed perfect around two turns with a game score in the El Cajon. I think Fed Biz has a ton of talent. I also think that, given the current Breeders’ Cup Classic picture, there is an opening for Fed Biz to put on a fall surge and be a real Breeders’ Cup factor.

Wise Dan will be a real Breeders’ Cup factor. Man, is this horse good right now. And what makes Wise Dan so unique is that dirt, synthetic, turf … it doesn’t matter at all. He’ll throw a big triple digit Beyer Figure at you regardless of the surface, and few can do that.

It does make sense that turf, specifically the Breeders’ Cup Mile, would be in Wise Dan’s near future given the way he dominated Sunday’s Woodbine Mile. It should be noted that within the sphere of turf, footing doesn’t matter to Wise Dan as he ran away with Sunday’s race on firm going much the way he ran away with last month’s Fourstardave Handicap over a bog. But though staying on grass and at a middle distance makes sense, I wouldn’t fault Wise Dan’s connections if they gave the Classic a go. The way Wise Dan was drawing off at the end of the nine furlong Clark Handicap on dirt last fall, 10 furlongs might certainly be within his range. Hey, I wouldn’t put anything past Wise Dan with the way he’s going now.

Update - Fed Biz did not enter the Pennsylvania Derby when it was drawn Monday afternoon. The Indiana Derby on Oct. 6 was the other race reported to be under consideration for him. That's too bad from a betting standpoint. He would have been a far more playable price at Parx than he figures to be at Hoosier.