10/26/2012 1:32PM

Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf: Shirreffs pair of Nereid and Star Billing get to stay home and run

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Benoit & Associates
Star Billing finished second to Include Me Out in the Clement Hirsh on the Del Mar Polytrack (above), but is a Grade 1 winner on turf.

John Shirreffs will be largely ignored in the buildup to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita next Friday and Saturday. He’s cool with that.

Nothing could replace the hoopla of the last Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in 2009, when Shirreffs won the Ladies’ Classic with Life Is Sweet and the Classic with the wildly popular Zenyatta.

This time, his runners are longshots – Nereid and Star Billing, who both run in Friday’s $2 million Filly and Mare Turf, and Mr. Commons in Saturday’s $2 million Mile.

Shirreffs said that the Breeders’ Cup being local was a major factor in Nereid and Star Billing going in the Filly and Mare Turf, which is run over 1 1/4 miles.

“That’s why we put them in the race,” he said. “They’re doing well and we don’t have to ship anywhere.”

Even though they are outsiders in a field led by the Europeans Ridasiyna and The Fugue, Shirreffs has reasons to expect Nereid and Star Billing to be competitive, starting with the race distance.

“We get to go a little longer,” he said.

Nereid, owned by Eric Kronfeld, was a dead-heat winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks at Betfair Hollywood Park in July 2011, but is winless in her last seven starts.

Nereid wore blinkers when she was sixth in the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar in August, a result that Shirreffs blames on himself.

“We made a critical mistake to put the blinkers on,” he said. “It made her way too rank and she couldn’t finish. Live and learn.”

Nereid was second to BC Filly and Mare Turf contender Marketing Mix in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on Sept. 29.

“She can run a good race off another good race,” Shirreffs said of his expectations for the Breeders’ Cup. “She needs a little pace to run at.”

Star Billing, owned by George Krikorian, won the Group 1 Matriarch Stakes over a mile on turf at Hollywood Park last November, her last start in a graded stakes on turf. The 4-year-old filly is winless in three starts this year.

Star Billing was second by a neck to Include Me Out in the Clement Hirsch Stakes on Polytrack at Del Mar.

“I thought she was unlucky not to get by the winner,” Shirreffs said.

In her next start, Shirreffs gambled that Star Billing, who is by Dynaformer, would like a dirt main track. She finished sixth in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes here on Sept. 29.

“Dynaformers run on dirt or turf,” he said. “We gave her a try to see if she liked it at all. Now we can go back to the turf.”