Updated on 09/16/2011 8:29AM

BC Countdown - Distaff: Two titles (at least) on the line here


CHICAGO - In terms of raw numbers, it is the smallest field. In terms of depth, it might be the strongest. Only eight fillies and mares were announced on Thursday as pre-entries for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff, but the quality of the runners should make the first World Thoroughbred Championship race of the day Oct. 26 at Arlington Park one of the best on the card.

Azeri and Summer Colony, the two best 4-year-old fillies in the country, and 3-year-old standouts Farda Amiga, Imperial Gesture, and Take Charge Lady head the field in the 1 1/8-mile race, which should decide championships for both champion filly or mare and champion 3-year-old filly.

It also might go a long ways toward determining Horse of the Year. If Azeri wins the Distaff, and the well-regarded runners in the Classic fail, Azeri undoubtedly would receive significant support for Horse of the Year.

"To me, Horse of the Year implies who has performed best all year," Laura de Seroux, the trainer of Azeri, said on a conference call from San Luis Rey Downs, the Southern California training facility where she is based. Azeri has won seven times in eight starts this year, with one second, which de Seroux said makes Azeri "the best in my mind all year."

Azeri has won her last six starts.

"It's been an amazing ride," de Seroux said. "When we started out the year, she was sort of a sparely made filly, and I was worried that racing would take its toll. But the opposite has happened. She's gotten stronger and stronger."

Azeri will be the favorite in the Distaff, but the race is by no means a walkover. Summer Colony defeated Azeri in their only previous meeting, in Santa Anita's La Canada Stakes. And Farda Amiga, Imperial Gesture, and Take Charge Lady all are coming off victories in major races, with Imperial Gesture and Take Charge Lady having stepped outside of their division to beat older rivals last time out.

The others pre-entered in the race are Mandy's Gold, who was second in the Beldame Stakes to Imperial Gesture while finishing in front of Summer Colony in her last start; Starrer, who most recently was second to Azeri in the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting; and Two Item Limit, whose lone win this year was against Illinois-breds at Arlington, but who was a close third in last year's Distaff at Belmont Park.

The field, including jockeys, is Azeri (Mike Smith riding), Farda Amiga (Pat Day), Imperial Gesture (Jerry Bailey), Mandy's Gold (Jose Santos), Starrer (Patrick Valenzuela), Summer Colony (John Velazquez), Take Charge Lady (Edgar Prado), and Two Item Limit (Rene Douglas).