Roly Poly presents a contrast with stablemate Hydrangea. Unlike trainer Aidan O’Brien’s other Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) contender, Roly Poly has been all about sprinter-type speed thus far in her career. She therefore complements the distance-proven Hydrangea, giving O’Brien a formidable one-two punch in a race he’s yet to win.
Showing the precocity befitting a daughter of War Front, Roly Poly had the speed to win going five furlongs at Naas in April. That debut success already put Royal Ascot on the mind. Unfortunately, soft ground hampered her chances in her next two. She was a fading fourth in the Marble Hill to her unbeaten stablemate Caravaggio, who went on to dominate the Coventry (G2) and Phoenix (G1) before being sidelined. The ground was even worse at Royal Ascot, and Roly Poly was never involved when eighth behind the imperious Lady Aurelia in the Queen Mary (G2).
Roly Poly was probably looking for a step up from five to six furlongs by now anyway. She accordingly got the extra panel in the Grangecon Stud (G3) at the Curragh. The yielding ground still wasn’t ideal, but the combination of added distance and lesser competition enabled her to get away with it – narrowly.
Finally racing over a course with “firm” in the description at Newmarket, Roly Poly showed a great attitude to fend off every challenge in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2). The form of that race wasn’t the greatest, but Roly Poly has kept progressing since then. She turned in an arguably stronger effort when second to the well-regarded Queen Kindly in York’s Lowther (G2), beating the odds-on Fair Eva in a fast time. The fillies who’d chased Roly Poly home at Newmarket were up the track here, further bolstering the idea that she’s on an upward curve.
Roly Poly was outstanding in defeat last time in the Cheveley Park (G1). Thanks to Lady Aurelia’s unsustainable pace, the race set up for a closer. Yet Roly Poly, who chased her early, came within an ace of holding on, only to be denied by her deep-closing stablemate, Brave Anna. It’s significant that Brave Anna was cutting back in distance after disappointing over seven furlongs in the Debutante (G2) and Moyglare Stud (G1). That background over further served her well in this war of attrition. And Brave Anna’s no slouch at six, having upset the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot.
Lady Aurelia was a spent third in the Cheveley Park. Queen Kindly likewise got burned by the tempo and wilted to fourth, beaten a total of six lengths. In the circumstances, Roly Poly was entitled to pack it in too, but she didn’t. The final time of 1:11.92 was faster than the 1:12.13 posted by The Last Lion, the front-running winner of the Middle Park (G1) one race later.
Although Roly Poly hasn’t raced past six furlongs, her narrow losses in the Lowther and Cheveley Park suggest she may profit from another increase in trip. The mile around Santa Anita strikes me as ideal for her. She’s got the speed to go forward early, and she won’t have an interminable stretch in front of her.
Roly Poly also stands to inherit some stamina from her dam, past O’Brien star Misty for Me. The winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) and Moyglare Stud at two, the multiple highweight added the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) and Pretty Polly (G1) at three, and she was a rattling third in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Moreover, Misty for Me has just proven herself as a graded producer at Santa Anita. Her first foal, the Fastnet Rock sophomore Cover Song, won Saturday’s Autumn Miss (G3) around the same mile that Roly Poly will negotiate in the Breeders’ Cup.
With her speedier profile, I’d given Roly Poly a slight edge over Hydrangea. Now @aobrienfansite reports that Ryan Moore will be aboard, implying that stable preference may reside with Roly Poly as well. Stay tuned for confirmation.
Photo courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter