Updated on 09/15/2011 1:12PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Distaff (10/11)


The retirement of Secret Status and a lingering injury to Gourmet Girl on Wednesday forced two possible starters out of the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff. But this race, which historically has had the smallest fields on Breeders' Cup Day, still should have a large field this year, come Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Nearly a dozen horses are likely to enter the race, the large field reflecting the balance in this division, plus the inconclusive nature of the last two Grade 1 prep races last weekend, Saturday's Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park, and Sunday's Overbrook Spinster Stakes at Keeneland.

The Beldame had a controversial result because the stewards elected to leave Exogenous as the winner, despite her twice ducking in during the stretch run toward Spain and Flute, who was on the rail. The Spinster was won by a front-running Miss Linda, and many trainers whose horses chased her believe their chances were compromised by a track that favored inside speed.

Randy Schulhofer, who trains Exogenous with his father, Scotty, admitted he got a "big break" when jockey Victor Espinoza, aboard Spain, told the stewards that Exogenous's ducking in did not compromise Spain's finishing position.

"I don't know Victor, but I sure look forward to meeting him," Schulhofer said from Belmont Park.

Espinoza said earlier this week at Santa Anita that Exogenous did veer in, but never hit Spain. "If she had hit me, that would be different. He straightened her up," Espinoza said, referring to jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Exogenous. "She was much the best. They should not disqualify her."

Exogenous is now 2 for 3 under Castellano, and 2 for 2 since adding blinkers. "When she turned for home in the Alabama, she was laying in a little. She wasn't focused. That's why we added blinkers," Schulhofer said.

Exogenous, Flute, and Spain are scheduled to come back in the Distaff.

Miss Linda, the 21-1 upset winner of the Spinster, needs to be supplemented to the Distaff for $400,000. One of the arguments in favor of paying the money, according to her trainer, John Kimmel, is that Miss Linda could win an Eclipse Award as champion older filly or mare with a Distaff victory.

"Everybody was pooh-poohing her effort, saying it was because of the track, but she's a top filly," Kimmel said. "She won two Group 1 races in Argentina. It's not like this race came from outer space."

The trainers of Pompeii, Starrer, and Unbridled Elaine - all of whom chased Miss Linda in the Spinster - said they will run in the Distaff.

Others likely for the Distaff include Critical Eye, Fleet Renee, Queenie Belle, and Tranquility Lake. Tranquility Lake breezed three furlongs in 37 seconds Wednesday morning at Santa Anita.

Mark Hennig, the trainer of Mystic Lady, who won Saturday's Grade 2 Cotillion Stakes at Philadelphia Park, said his filly would run in the Distaff "only if it falls apart." He said she instead would point for the Honey Bee Stakes at the Meadowlands.

Gourmet Girl, who won the Grade 1 Vanity and Apple Blossom handicaps earlier this year, has been taken out of training by trainer Pico Perdomo because of a nagging splint injury on the outside of her left front ankle.

"It's a shame, but that's the way it is," Perdomo said from Hollywood Park. "She's sound, sound, sound, like a dollar used to be. Today you can't go too far with a dollar. I'd like to fire her splint, give her 30 days here, then 45 days at the farm. She would be a brand-new horse next year."

Perdomo said he hopes owner Gary Tanaka will race Gourmet Girl next year at age 7.