Updated on 09/16/2011 8:19AM

BC Countdown - Distaff: Distaff looks like a marquee event


Their paths have crossed just once, but they have been eyeing one another since then, and, assuming all goes well in their respective prep races next week, Azeri and Summer Colony will meet for a second and more important time, to decide the Eclipse Award for champion older filly and mare in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff.

The Distaff is shaping up as one of the marquee races of the World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 26 at Arlington Park. In addition to Azeri and Summer Colony, the race is expected to include older stars Dancethruthedawn and Mandy's Gold, as well as 3-year-old standouts Farda Amiga, Imperial Gesture, and Take Charge Lady. The 3-year-olds Bella Bellucci and You also could be there if they run well in their next start.

With the exception of Farda Amiga, who proved in the Alabama Stakes that she runs well with plenty of time between races, all the major contenders are scheduled to have one more prep race before the Breeders' Cup.

There are no Distaff preps of significance this weekend. The last round of important Distaff preps will be held next week, in California, New York, and Kentucky.

Azeri will be up first, in Wednesday's Grade 2, $200,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap on opening day of Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. The timing is ideal, according to trainer Laura de Seroux, who pointed out that Azeri will have a few extra days between the Lady's Secret and Distaff when compared to her rivals whose prep races are next weekend. In addition, the Lady's Secret field should be small, with little depth beyond Azeri.

After Azeri worked six furlongs at San Luis Rey Downs Saturday in 1:11, and galloped out a mile in 1:38, de Seroux wrote "ready!" in her training chart.

"That's ready, with an exclamation point," de Seroux said. "I'm glad her prep is when it is. It was the right move on Oak Tree's part. The other Breeders' Cup preps are just a little tight. The Spinster is really tight."

The Grade 1, $750,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park is Oct. 5, and will serve as the Distaff prep for Summer Colony, who beat Azeri in their only meeting. Summer Colony's rivals are expected to include Allamerican Bertie, Bella Bellucci, Imperial Gesture, and Transcendental

The Grade 1, $500,000 Overbrook Spinster Stakes at Keeneland is Oct. 6, just 20 days in front of the Distaff. Among those expected for that race are Atelier, Dancethruthedawn, Take Charge Lady, and You.

Michael Gorham, the trainer of Mandy's Gold, said he had not decided whether to run in the Beldame or Spinster, but that Mandy's Gold would be in one of those races. "I'd like to go to the easier race," Gorham said.

De Seroux said Azeri was given a "mini-rest" after her victory in the Clement Hirsch Handicap last month at Del Mar. "That way I don't have to keep training and pounding on her," de Seroux said. "She has to be tight for the Breeders' Cup. It's going to be a showdown. The Lady's Secret should be a good tightener for her, and then I can wind her up for the Breeders' Cup."