Updated on 09/17/2011 5:38PM

Time is now for Island Fashion revival

Island Fashion spent the winter atop her division. Then came a tiring trip to Japan.

Her two victories at the beginning of last winter's Santa Anita meeting put Island Fashion atop her division, a position she solidified with a gutsy second-place finish when facing males in the Santa Anita Handicap. But a subsequent trip to Japan and lengthy layoff following a 16th-place finish there has resulted in Island Fashion becoming the forgotten horse of this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff.

All that could change on Sunday, when Island Fashion returns to Santa Anita for her first start in nearly four months, in the Grade 2, $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap. It is a pivotal race for Island Fashion. She must prove she is as good as she was earlier in the year, and this will be her lone prep for the Oct. 30 Distaff at Lone Star Park.

"She's been doing good," her trainer, Marcelo Polanco, said Wednesday. "This is the race to get her ready before the main one. She has come back very happy. I think she's almost there."

It was a long road back. Island Fashion was knocked out by her trip to Japan. She was coming off an aggressive campaign at Santa Anita, then was asked to travel to Japan and race on turf. It also rained heavily the day of the race, another hurdle for Island Fashion.

"She doesn't like a wet track," Polanco said. "It rained all day. When I looked out the window of my hotel at 6 in the morning, it was raining, and it never stopped."

In Island Fashion's absence, Azeri, Sightseek, and Storm Flag Flying have emerged as the leading contenders for an Eclipse Award as champion older filly or mare. But Island Fashion did enough earlier this year to merit the championship if she can come back as good as she left with a Lady's Secret-Distaff parlay.

The Lady's Secret field is also expected to include Elloluv and Summer Wind Dancer. It is one of three graded stakes races this weekend for Distaff contenders. The others are exclusively for 3-year-old fillies - the Grade 2, $250,000 Cotillion Stakes on Saturday at Philadelphia Park, and the Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks on Friday night at Hoosier Park.

Ashado, the Kentucky Oaks winner, will be a heavy favorite in the Cotillion. She also will carry top weight of 124 pounds and concede from seven to 10 pounds to eight rivals.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Ashado, said he decided to go to the Cotillion rather than wait for next week's Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park because he wanted Ashado to have four weeks between her final prep and the Distaff.

"The biggest plus is that it's where we want on the calendar," Pletcher said. "It's four weeks, it's two turns, and it's against straight 3-year-olds. The only negative is we have to ship, and she gets penalized in the weights."

Pletcher also will have a runner in the Indiana Oaks in Capeside Lady, who has won both her starts since stretching out around two turns. The race favorite should be Stellar Jayne, the winner of the Mother Goose Stakes. Also in the field is Daydreaming, who was second to Stellar Jayne in the Gazelle on Sept. 11.

Distaff contenders
3-year-olds & up, fillies & mares, 1 1/8 miles. Purse: $2 million.

1SightseekR. Frankel7-2
In order to be divisional champ, she must beat Azeri, and in this race
2AzeriD. W. Lukas3-1
Vulnerable if denied control of the pace; will also pre-enter the Classic
3Storm Flag FlyingC. McGaughey III6-1
Not sure she can beat the top two without some outside assistance
4Island FashionM. Polanco10-1
Early-season force returns in Sunday's Lady's Secret; watch closely
5Society SelectionH.A. Jerkens12-1
Was it Lasix or Saratoga that triggered her stunning recent success?
6AshadoT. Pletcher8-1
Accomplished 3yo found a soft spot to prep in Saturday's Cotillion
7ElloluvC. Dollase20-1
Second in this race last year; will also prep in the Lady's Secret
8Stellar JayneD.W. Lukas20-1
Dances every dance, and her next one is Friday's Indiana Oaks
9Summer Wind DancerJ. Mullins30-1
If she doesn't do well in the Lady's Secret, she'll opt for the Cal. Cup
10TamweelW. Catalano30-1
Second to last year's winner Adoration at Arlington; still a longshot

- The top 10 contenders for each of the eight Breeders' Cup races are ranked by Mike Watchmaker, who set the odds and wrote the comments. Actual Breeders' Cup fields will have up to 14 starters.