11/02/2011 12:32PM

Breeders' Cup: Filly and Mare Turf a four-way route

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Barbara D. Livingston
Aruna wound up in the Filly and Mare Turf after failing to work well enough on dirt to try the Ladies’ Classic.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Tearing the shell from the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf won’t take taxing effort. Twelve were entered in the $2 million race to be run around three turns and over 1 3/8 miles, and either Stacelita, Announce, Nahrain, or Misty for Me seems likely to win. But the nut at the race’s heart feels far tougher to crack.

Announce beat Stacelita by 2 1/2 lengths in their only meeting, but that was back in June and over in France. Stacelita was making her first start of 2011, Announce her third, and Stacelita now has a leg up on French shipper Announce, having already adapted to American-style racing after three starts here.

Nahrain won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera over Announce on Oct. 2 at Longchamp, but the margin of victory was a sliver. Four races into her career Nahrain is unbeaten, but her young English trainer, Roger Varian, is starting his first horse outside Europe. Announce is trained by an icon, Andre Fabre, a four-time BC winner.

Misty for Me has been in and out all 2011. Her season began with a beating in the English 1000 Guineas, but in June, she took top-class Midday by six lengths.

Four-way dead heat, anyone?

Five-year-old Stacelita was a tough-trip third in the United Nations, her North American debut, before going on to win the Beverly D. by 1 1/4 lengths and the Flower Bowl by two. Skeptics will note Stacelita had won just 1 of 6 previous starts, and benefited from facing lesser competition. Moreover, both recent wins came on the kind of wet turf over which Stacelita excels. The Churchill course was good-to-firm as of midweek. There’s a decent chance of showers Thursday, but the lawn probably won’t be softer than “good.”

Stacelita – back to the positive – has looked great in daily dirt gallops this week, though she has worn a clear bubble blinker over an infected left eye, equipment that may or may not be employed Friday. Her trainer, Chad Brown, thinks Stacelita has an edge on the invaders.

“She’s been over here, and they haven’t, and she seems to be on top of her game,” Brown said.

Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms, Announce’s owner-breeder, said Juddmonte always regarded Announce as “a pretty nice filly,” but she didn’t start in a Group 1 race until August, when she beat another Juddmonte filly, the decent but unexceptional Timepiece, by a neck in the Prix Jean Romanet.

Nahrain hadn’t run in a Group stakes of any sort until the Opera, where she accelerated in the final furlong and held on to beat Announce. Announce has won over 1 9/16 miles, but the 1 1/4-mile Opera was Nahrain’s longest race. Roger Varian, who became a head trainer earlier this year when his boss, Michael Jarvis, died, believes Nahrain can cope with Friday’s trip.

“It’s a sharp mile-three, and she got the mile and a quarter really well, so I wouldn’t think it’d be much of a concern,” he said.

[Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf: Get graded entries, comments by Brad Free, and more]

Misty for Me, who might show some speed, might appreciate rain as much as Stacelita: When she whipped Midday in Ireland, the course was yielding. Misty for Me and Nahrain will race on Lasix for the first time. Announce won’t be treated with the anti-bleeder medication.

English import Dubawi Heights was second to Stacelita in the Beverly D. before winning the Yellow Ribbon in California.

“I think if the ground can stay the way it is, on the firmer side, she might turn the tables,” said trainer Simon Callaghan.

Dubai Heights set the Beverly D. pace, and Callaghan wouldn’t be opposed to the filly leading from post 1. Dynaslew, who appears overmatched, could also make for the front end.

Aruna wound up in the Filly and Mare Turf after failing to work well enough on dirt to try the Ladies’ Classic. Racing surface is no issue for Aruna, but the filly has won only up to nine furlongs. Trainer Graham Motion’s second starter, Shared Account, has started just twice, finishing fourth and sixth, since winning this race in 2010, though her trainer thinks she can deliver a top performance.

“She’s only run a mile and three-eighths once, and that’s what she wants to do,” Motion said.

But even if Shared Account comes back to top form, there’s a problem: The Filly and Mare Turf looks stronger, top to bottom, than the 2010 race.

Where the greatest strength lies – that’s the harder question.

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  HORSE / TRAINER JOCKEY LAST 3 BEYERS COMMENT ODDS
Stacelita
C. Brown
R. Dominguez 100, 101, 98 Queen of North America female grass division has won 10 of 17 2-1
Nahrain
R. Varian
L. Dettori n/a, n/a, n/a Group 1 win in France made it 4-for-4, credentials for this race 7-2
Dubawi Heights
S. Callaghan
J. Rosario 97, 98, 93 Tactical speed always gets good trip, leader shallow California group 4-1
Announce
A. Fabre
M. Guyon n/a, n/a, n/a Seasoned G1-caliber mare shipping from France in good form 5-1
Misty For Me
A. O'Brien
R. Moore n/a, n/a, n/a Miler won half her starts overseas, possibly challenged by distance 8-1
Harmonious
J. Shirreffs
M. Garcia 94, 92, 95 Promised more than delivered in this winless season as 4-year-old 12-1
Aruna
G. Motion
J. Leparoux 95, 95, 94 This is right surface, wrong distance. 12-1
Shared Account
G. Motion
E. Prado 90, 82, 96 Returned $94 winning this race last year, similar odds this year 20-1
Distorted Legacy
A. Penna
R. Maragh 96, 83, 85 Second at a big price G1 at BEL, seems outclassed 30-1
Cambina
J. Bonde
G. Gomez 92, 93, 92 Occasionally uncorks an impressive turn of foot 30-1
Dynaslew
S. Benzel
C. Nakatani 93, 92, 76 Slow-pace front-runner/presser will keep grinding, better in 2010? 30-1
Perfect Shirl
R. Attfield
J. Velazquez 97, 86, 93 Has fallen short against easier competition than this 30-1