Updated on 09/15/2011 1:15PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Distaff (10/18)


ELMONT, N.Y. - The $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park will decide championships for both 3-year-old filly and older filly or mare divisions, which is why a near-record field of 13 was pre-entered on Wednesday.

A victory by Exogenous, Fleet Renee, or Flute would give that filly the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly. Similarly, older runners such as Miss Linda or Tranquility Lake could secure a championship with a win. And they all will have to get past Spain, who won this race last year in a 55-1 upset and comes off a sharp third behind Exogenous and Flute in the Beldame Stakes.

The chance to win a title was among the reasons that owners Bob and Lee Acklerley put up a supplemental fee of $400,000 to make Miss Linda, the Spinster Stakes winner, eligible for the race, trainer John Kimmel said Wednesday morning at Belmont Park.

"She might not even have to win," Kimmel said. "If she just finishes in front of all the other older fillies and mares in the race, she'd still be highly considered as an Eclipse candidate."

Only once in Breeders' Cup history has the Distaff had more than 13 runners. The Distaff usually has the smallest field on Breeders' Cup Championship Day, often with fewer than 10 runners. In 17 previous runnings, the Distaff has had eight or fewer horses 10 times.

"Four or five of the horses ran lifetime tops and are coming back in a three-week period," Kimmel said. "It's going to come down to who holds their form and runs their race that day."

Never was that more evident than one year ago. Both Riboletta and Beautiful Pleasure had dominated the division all year, and were coming off terrific efforts in the Beldame. But both regressed in the Distaff, and Spain scored the biggest upset in the race's history.

Flute is scheduled to work here on Saturday, according to trainer Bobby Frankel, but he said he had a "three-day window."

"It depends on the weather and the track," Frankel said. "I could wait until Sunday or Monday if I need to."

Miss Linda also will work on Saturday, Kimmel said. Critical Eye is scheduled to have her final workout on Sunday morning at Aqueduct, where she regularly trains, according to her trainer, Scott Schwartz.

Every horse in the race already has a confirmed rider. The pre-entries, including their jockeys, are Atelier (Edgar Prado), Critical Eye (Jorge Chavez), Exogenous (Javier Castellano), Fleet Renee (John Velazquez), Flute (Jerry Bailey), Miss Linda (Richard Migliore), Pompeii (Gary Stevens), Queenie Belle (Brice Blanc), Spain (Victor Espinoza), Starrer (Chris McCarron), Tranquility Lake (Eddie Delahoussaye), Two Item Limit (Alex Solis), and Unbridled Elaine (Pat Day.)

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