Updated on 09/17/2011 11:33AM

Sightseek's Eclipse in sight


Sightseek all year has been regarded as the heiress apparent to Azeri as the nation's premier female runner. As long as Azeri kept winning, though, Sightseek was on the outside looking in. She's still there, but Azeri's loss in last Sunday's Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap has given Sightseek a clearer peek into the possibility of an Eclipse Award.

After beginning the year with three straight second-place finishes, Sightseek has won three consecutive Grade 1 races. She will go for a fourth on Saturday, in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. If she can parlay a victory there into another in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, Sightseek would put herself in position to take a year-end championship away from Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year.e

"If she wins now, she has a chance," Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Sightseek, said Wednesday morning from New York.

"I was afraid that if the other filly," Frankel said, referring to Azeri, "won on Sunday and then ran in the Classic, we wouldn't have enough pull, even if the other filly lost the Classic. Now, it's wide-open. Whoever wins the race will get the Eclipse Award, if they have a decent record going in."

Sightseek certainly qualifies. Frankel was touting Sightseek as one to watch 18 months ago, before she ever ran. Since making her debut in the summer of 2002 at Saratoga, Sightseek has won seven times and finished second in her other four starts. A 4-year-old chestnut filly who was bred and is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, Sightseek is by the Mr. Prospector stallion Distant View.

"She's matured a lot physically this year," Frankel said. "She's a big, strong filly, and she's filled out into her frame. She's really gotten stronger. And she's been training unbelievably. I've pushed her by mistake a couple of times - worked her fast, not on purpose - and she's really responded. She can take anything. She started late last year, but she's developed into a great filly."

Sightseek's three losses this year all were at Santa Anita, including to Got Koko - who beat Azeri in the Lady's Secret - in the La Canada Stakes. In each of those races, Sightseek had a weight break. She will have no such concession in the Distaff, which is run under weight-for-age conditions. Frankel concedes that Sightseek might be better in New York than at Santa Anita.

"I'm a little concerned about that," he said. "I think she's improved so much that she can overcome that. New York has really helped her. She really likes the track at Belmont. She's training really well here."

No more than five rivals are expected to face Sightseek in the Beldame. Others likely for the race are the top 3-year-olds Bird Town and Buy the Sport, along with Passing Shot and Summer Colony. Island Fashion also is expected to be entered in the race, but she has the option of running against other 3-year-old fillies in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park, for which she already has been entered.

Until Sunday, Summer Colony was the only horse ever to defeat Azeri, in the 2002 La Canada. But Summer Colony has not been as consistent in the past 12 months. She has only one win in her last six starts.

Mark Hennig, the trainer of Summer Colony, was considering both the Beldame and Sunday's Grade 1, $500,000 Overbrook Spinster Stakes at Keeneland for Summer Colony, but decided to remain in New York.

"I didn't want to ship there and back. Hopefully, we'll just have to make one ship, if necessary," Hennig said, referring to going to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup. "The plus to running at Keeneland is that it's a two-turn race. The minus that you have to travel. They're both tough spots."

The Spinster will be headed by Take Charge Lady, who won the race last year as a 3-year-old and is unbeaten in four starts at Keeneland. She has only one win in four starts this year, but she ran well in all three of her losses, finishing second to division leaders Azeri, Sightseek, and Wild Spirit.

"She's doing great. Perfect. And we've got the home-court advantage," Ken McPeek, who trains Take Charge Lady, said Wednesday from Kentucky.

McPeek said he had not dwelled on the ramifications of the Distaff vis-a-vis Azeri losing on Sunday.

"I try not to think about things I can't control," he said. "All I can do is make sure my filly is doing well. If Azeri had won the other day, maybe she'd have run in the Classic, and that would have been okay."

Take Charge Lady is expected to have few rivals in the Spinster. Frankel had been considering both Wild Spirit and You for the race, but is only sending You from New York. Miss Linda and Printemps, Grade 1 winners who appear past their prime, are also expected.

Wild Spirit, who was upset by Passing Shot in the Personal Ensign Handicap after winning her first two starts in this country, will not have another race prior to the Distaff. But if Frankel gets his way, she won't even run in the Distaff. Wild Spirit, who was bred in Chile, was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, so she would have to be supplemented to the race for $400,000. Frankel believes that's a bad bet, and he has conveyed his thoughts to Wild Spirit's South American owners.