Elate loves a 1 ¼-mile distance and has never been better than she was in the July 13 Delaware Handicap (G2). Fifth entering the far turn, she received her cue from jockey Jose Ortiz and the race was over before the completion of the bend.
Her turn of foot proved sensational as Elate blew by a couple of respectable foes (Escape Clause and Blue Prize) into a clear lead rounding the far turn and Ortiz began easing up his mount about a sixteenth of a mile from the wire. The final winning margin (4 ½ lengths) didn’t illustrate her dominance.
This classy five-year-old mare loves a route of ground, so much so that 1 1/16 miles is too short for her. The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred has dropped all five starts at 1 1/16 miles, including a pair of decisions to Midnight Bisou earlier this season. She’s had some success at 1 1/8 miles, posting a pair of stakes wins including a 1 ½-length triumph over Blue Prize in the June 15 Fleur de Lis (G2), but Elate owns an overall two-for-five record at the distance.
The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro prefers the distance of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), winning three stakes starts at 1 ¼ miles by a combined 13 ¼ lengths. If the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff were held at 1 ¼ miles this fall, Midnight Bisou and the rest of the field would be competing for second.
However, 1 1/8-mile Distaff distance favors Midnight Bisou, who is four-for-four in 2019. The race offers $4 million less than the Classic and looks like a more difficult assignment for Elate given the quality of this year’s projected Classic field.
In the latest Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings, compiled by a panel of 36 Thoroughbred racing media, the top three contenders are:
1 McKinzie (Met Mile runner-up was 12th in last year’s Classic and 0-for-2 at 1 ¼ miles)
2 Thunder Snow (winless from four U.S. starts)
3 Seeking the Soul (winless in stakes races outside of Churchill Downs)
Barring a three-year-old emerging as a legitimate threat over the coming months, Elate won’t have any rivals to fear in the 2019 Classic field. Bill Mott knows how to ship horses to Santa Anita, recording four of his 10 Breeders’ Cup race wins in Southern California, and Elate’s BRIS Speed numbers (104 in Del ‘Cap) are on par with her male opponents.
The Classic is shaping up to be a better fit for Elate than the Distaff.