Filly and Mare Turf boasts marquee rematch

Horse Racing

A year after a stirring stretch run in which the British invader Queen’s Trust edged the American Lady Eli by a nose to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, they are set for a rematch as part of a full field expected for the Grade 1, $2 million Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4 at Del Mar. The two were among 18 pre-entries announced for the race Wednesday.

Other prominent pre-entries include six Breeders’ Cup Challenge race winners in Avenge, Birdie Gold, Dacita, Rhododendron, War Flag, and Zipessa, as well as seven horses chosen by the Breeders’ Cup selection committee – Cambodia, Grand Jete, Nezwaah, Roly Poly, Senga, Wuheida, and Queen’s Trust.

Lady Eli, the anticipated race favorite, earned her way into the race on qualifying points based on top finishes in North American graded stakes.

Four pre-entries were placed on the alternate list by the selection committee. Listed in order of preference, they are Goodyearforroses, Kitten’s Roar, Smart Call, and Responsibleforlove. They could gain a starting position if there are defections among those in the body of the pre-entry field.

Trainers Chad Brown and Aidan O’Brien are represented by multiple pre-entries, with Brown having Lady Eli, Dacita, and Grand Jete and O’Brien having Rhododendron and Roly Poly.

Roly Poly was one of four horses cross-entered in other Breeders’ Cup grass races, though O’Brien said he prefers the Filly and Mare Turf over the Mile for Roly Poly.

The other cross-entered runners are Nezwaah, whose connections stated a first preference for the Filly and Mare Turf over the Turf; Senga, first preference in the Filly and Mare Turf over the Mile; and Smart Call, who would seem a more likely candidate for the Turf than the Filly and Mare Turf since that is her connections’ stated preference and she is higher up on the list of alternates for the Turf.

Having asserted her dominance over most American-based horses this year, Lady Eli’s primary challengers are expected to come from Europe. In addition to Queen’s Trust, Prix de l’Opera winner Rhododendron and Roly Poly, a winner of three Group 1 races from her last four starts, head the opposition.

This year’s Filly and Mare Turf will be run at 1 1/8 miles, the shortest distance of the race since its inception in 1999. Nine furlongs suits Lady Eli, who is 3 for 3 at the distance during her stellar career, which was interrupted by laminitis that contributed to a 13-month layoff from July 2015 to August 2016.

A Breeders’ Cup victory seemingly would clinch an Eclipse Award as champion female grass horse for Lady Eli, an achievement that has eluded her the past two years due to the accomplishments of the subsequently retired Tepin.

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