11/02/2016 6:20PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies: Baffert has one-two punch

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Emily Shields
American Gal, working at Santa Anita on Tuesday, is expected to show speed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The $2 million Juvenile Fillies launches the Saturday slate of Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita – just as it has launched so many great fillies into racing lore.

From what seems to be an extremely well-matched field of 12, perhaps there will be a filly to go on to match the feats of such greats as Open Mind, Go for Wand, Silverbulletday, Storm Flag Flying, Beholder, Songbird, and all the others who have used the Juvenile Fillies as a stepping-stone to stardom.

Favoritism in this 33rd running of the Juvenile Fillies – the first of the nine straight Saturday BC events, and fourth of 12 races overall – could go to Noted and Quoted, one of two Bob Baffert-trained horses in the 1 1/16-mile race, but it also could go elsewhere. What won’t be contested: this is one of the deepest events of the entire two-day Breeders’ Cup, with another half-dozen fillies sure to garner their share of wagering support.

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Five of the Juvenile Fillies starters already are Grade 1 winners, including Noted and Quoted, whose victory at 7-1 five weeks ago in the Chandelier came over the Santa Anita surface. The gray Florida-bred will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano and breaks from post 10.

“The thing about Noted and Quoted is she’s shown she can handle the distance,” said Baffert, who also will be represented by the speedy American Gal, the likely pacesetter who breaks from post 12 under Mike Smith.

“I mean, American Gal is really fast, and they’ll know she’s in there, for sure,” Baffert said. “I think she can get the distance, too, but you never know until they show you.”

Another California-based filly drawn outside, Union Strike (post 9, Martin Garcia), was withheld from the Chandelier with a minor ailment after winning the Del Mar Debutante four weeks earlier for owner Mick Ruis Sr. Her form is good enough to make her one of the favorites here, although some will question whether she’ll be sufficiently fit without the interim prep.

“I’ve been very impressed with her since she came into my barn,” said Craig Dollase, who assumed her training less than a month ago.

With Honors (post 2, Flavien Prat) opened her career with two wins over turf before finishing second by a half-length to Noted and Quoted in the Chandelier.

“She got some dirt in her face in the last race,” trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “She’s a really talented filly.”

From the East Coast come the other Grade 1 winners: Yellow Agate, Sweet Loretta, and Dancing Rags.

Yellow Agate (post 4, Manny Franco) was a narrow winner of the Oct. 8 Frizette at Belmont Park for trainer Christophe Clement, best known for his prowess with turf runners. In just two starts, Yellow Agate has developed a terrific closing kick. She is the only starter in the field who will be treated with the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time.

Sweet Loretta (post 5, Javier Castellano) dead-heated for victory with Pretty City Dancer in a memorable running of the Sept. 3 Spinaway at Saratoga. A daughter of the great sire Tapit, Sweet Loretta has trained smartly at Belmont in the intervening weeks for trainer Todd Pletcher, who says the filly’s versatility and willingness to overcome adversity “gives us some optimism that she’ll handle the stretch-out.”

Dancing Rags (post 8, Angel Cruz) shipped from her Fair Hill base in northern Maryland to win the Oct. 7 Alcibiades at Keeneland. Since then, “I’ve been quite happy with her,” trainer Graham Motion said.

Perhaps the sleeper of the group is Valadorna (post 3, Julien Leparoux), whose maiden romp earlier on the Alcibiades card at Keeneland was enough to convince trainer Mark Casse to throw the Stonestreet homebred into much deeper water.

“We know she only just broke her maiden, but we don’t think it’s that big a deal,” Casse said. “She’s shown us enough in the mornings to suggest she could be a real standout, and we’re going to give her that chance.”

The field for the Juvenile Fillies is rounded out by a handful of longshots: Champagne Room (post 6, Mario Gutierrez), Daddys Lil Darling (post 11, Corey Lanerie), and the Rudy Rodriguez duo of Colorful Charades (post 1, Luis Saez) and Jamyson ’n Ginger (post 7, Irad Ortiz Jr.).

Of those, Jamyson ’n Ginger offers the most intrigue. She was soundly defeated in two maiden races, then jumped up with a 15 1/4-length victory Oct. 9 in the Belmont slop to earn a 103 Beyer Speed Figure, which is easily the highest in this lineup. Many gamblers will attribute that gaudy figure to the off track and view it with skepticism.

Post time for the Juvenile Fillies is 12:05 p.m. Pacific. The first race goes at 10:15 a.m. Pacific.