Breeders’ Cup Distaff: For the Shippers, Getting to Santa Anita is the Easy Part

Breeders’ Cup Distaff: For the Shippers, Getting to Santa Anita is the Easy Part

By: Brad Free

The New York-based Cavorting will enter the Breeders’ Cup Distaff off a 70-day break – since this win in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

ARCADIA, CA – Air travel from New York or Kentucky out to California for the Breeders’ Cup is not complicated. Cavorting stayed home in New York all spring and summer and won three graded stakes. Now comes autumn, and Cavorting soon will head to California.

“We’re going to an away game; it’s not a challenge,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said this week from New York. “It’s a flight, and shipping.”

No more, no less – no big deal.

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Yes, the travel is straightforward for Belmont Park-based Cavorting, one of four Grade 1 winners shipping in for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Santa Anita. The others are Curalina, also from New York, and I’m a Chatterbox and Forever Unbridled from Kentucky.

But the shippers will face a daunting challenge, specifically the local advantage held by Distaff favorites Songbird, Beholder, and Stellar Wind. Combined, they have made 25 starts at Santa Anita – 22 wins, three seconds. Talk about a home-court advantage.

“There is no question it’s an advantage to be able to stay home,” Curalina’s trainer, Todd Pletcher, said this week from New York. “We hope we can buck that trend this year. If you want to participate, you have to get on a plane and come out there.”

Curalina and Cavorting will train at Belmont Park through October and get on a plane to Santa Anita less than one week before the Distaff.

Another late arrival will be I’m a Chatterbox, who romped over four rivals in the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland. Trainer Larry Jones said this week that I’m a Chatterbox will train in Kentucky through October.

“If you can’t go a month early, then go at the last minute,” Jones said. “So, we’ll come at the last minute.”

Forever Unbridled, an easy winner over six rivals in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 1, is the only Distaff shipper expected to show up early.

“Going west, for some reason, seems to be a little different,” trainer Dallas Stewart said this week from Kentucky. “That’s why we’re thinking about coming in a little earlier and settling in. It’s just a gut feeling; they might need a little time to settle in.”

Forever Unbridled and the Stewart-trained Dirt Mile candidate Tom’s Ready are scheduled to ship Tuesday. The early arrival will allow both horses a final workout over the Santa Anita racing surface.

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The preps all have been run, and recent wins by Forever Unbridled and I’m a Chatterbox flattered the leading Distaff candidates from the East. Cavorting and Curalina finished first and second in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 27. Forever Unbridled and I’m a Chatterbox were third and fourth in the same race and then returned to win Grade 1 races.

Cavorting and Curalina will enter the Breeders’ Cup with the longest layoffs of the U.S.-based Distaff runners – 70 days. For both, the layoff was by design.

Cavorting “is better with the time,” McLaughlin said.

After winning the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 11, Cavorting was off until she won the Personal Ensign on Aug. 27. Since then, she has had only one published work. It is normal for Cavorting, who keeps herself fit.

“She is pretty aggressive in her gallops,” McLaughlin said. “We plan to work her two more times is all. She’s different.”

Cavorting is making her second trip west. In December, she arrived a week and a half prior to the Grade 1 La Brea, posted one ordinary work over the Santa Anita track, and finished third. She has improved since.

Cavorting could be cross-entered in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, but the Distaff will remain the objective, McLaughlin said.

Curalina, the runner-up last out to Cavorting, enters with the same layoff as her rival. The pattern worked for Pletcher last year, when Stopchargingmaria won the Distaff off a two-month break.

Regarding Curalina, Pletcher said: “We felt like our best chance was to come in fresh and hopefully be set up to run our ‘A’ race. It takes some discipline to do that, especially when you see the Spinster’s five-horse field and the small field in the Beldame.”

Curalina has run twice this year following a layoff – a romp by more than seven lengths in the Grade 1 La Troienne in May at Churchill Downs and a romp by more than nine in the Grade 3 Shuvee in July at Saratoga. Curalina runs super when she is fresh.

While the Distaff remains the goal for Curalina, there also has been discussion about shortening up to seven furlongs for the Filly and Mare Sprint.

“There are pros and cons to both,” Pletcher said. “The obvious concern is just how strong the [Distaff] division is.”

Pletcher added that Curalina “is probably good enough and versatile enough that she would show up and run a big race in either spot.”

“I don’t think we have to do a whole lot different in her training until we get down to maybe her final breeze,” he said.

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