Female thoroughbreds went on an unprecedented run the past three years, when Rachel Alexandra (2009), Zenyatta (2010) and Havre de Grace were crowned Horse of the Year. Barring unforeseen developments this weekend at Santa Anita, that streak will end. Yet Girl Power hasn't lost any of its punch, because the most intriguing of the 15 Breeders' Cup races is tomorrow night's $2-million, 1 1/8-mile Ladies' Classic.
Not only will it showcase two undefeated former 2-year-old champs, the 10-for-10 Awesome Feather (3-1 odds) and the 6-for-6 My Miss Aurelia (4-1), but neither is the morning-line favorite. That honor goes to defending champion Royal Delta, the 9-5 choice whose 9 1/2-length runaway in the Beldame made trainer Bill Mott consider running her against males in the $5-million Classic.
"It could shape up as good a Ladies' Classic as we've ever seen,'' trainer Todd Pletcher said. "It's a star-studded lineup, a very strong group from top to bottom.''
Besides the top three, there's Questing (4-1), who took two prestigious 3-year-old races at Saratoga, the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. She almost knocked off My Miss Aurelia Sept. 22 at Parx, losing a stretch-long duel by a head in the $1-million Cotillion. Then there's Pletcher's speedy Love and Pride (8-1), who dominated the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita last time out, and the accomplished Grace Hall (10-1).
"We're worried about all of them,'' Mott said. "Royal Delta's Beldame was very good, and I hope she fires that shot back in the Breeders' Cup. To win, she'll probably have to.''
Besides her easy victory over the host track, Love and Pride upset Royal Delta, who was spotting her 9 pounds, by a half-length in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga. If left alone on the lead, Love and Pride is dangerous, but Questing is likely to push her and My Miss Aurelia, Awesome Feather and Royal Delta won't be far behind.
Trainer Steve Asmussen is high on My Miss Aurelia, last year's Juvenile Fillies heroine. "She's always been special from the first time we got her in the barn,'' he said. "The Cotillion was about as good a race as you can ask for.''
Awesome Feather won the 2010 Juvenile Fillies for trainer Stanley Gold, and soon afterward she was sold to Frank Stronach. He gave her to Chad Brown, who discovered a bowed tendon, often a career-ending problem, and brought her back. She's run only four times the past two years, but you can expect the masterful Brown to have her in peak form.
"What we're in the horse racing game for is a race like this,'' Brown said. "There are several horses that could win if they bring their 'A' game.''