Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf: 10 things to know
The Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) showcases the division’s elite performers, drawing contenders not only from around the country, but from the world over. Here are 10 things to know as we look toward its 24th running Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
1. The first "expansion" race
Established in 1999, the Filly & Mare Turf was the first new race added to the Breeders’ Cup slate since its 1984 inaugural. As a championship event, it often plays a major role in determining the turf female title. Fourteen distaffers clinched their Eclipse Awards by winning this race.
2. Variable distances
The Filly & Mare Turf has been held at a variety of distances, depending upon the configuration of the Breeders’ Cup host track. A total of 11 runnings occurred at 1 1/4 miles, with the fastest recorded by Queen’s Trust (2016) in 1:57.75 at Santa Anita. Nine have been run as far as 1 3/8 miles, and the shortest was over 1 1/8 miles at Del Mar in 2017. Keeneland’s editions are contested at 1 3/16 miles, including the course record of 1:52.72 set by British shipper Audarya in 2020.
3. Internationals nearing a tie score
The overall tally is almost evenly split between North American-based winners (12) and victorious internationals (11). But the frequency of foreign success is increasing; five of the last six winners were international raiders. They are disproportionately British-based (eight). France, Ireland, and Japan have all gotten on the scoreboard with one apiece, but the French coup came two decades ago in 2001.
4. Respect elders
Older distaffers have won more often than three-year-olds, who have taken only six of 23 runnings. All of the winning sophomores were internationals. The oldest winner is Stephanie’s Kitten (2015) at the age of six.
5. Beware favorites
Favorites have had a tough time, going just 5-for-23. That record is even worse if you remove the internationals who justified favoritism (Islington in 2003, Ouija Board in both 2004 and 2006, and Dank in 2013). Not since Soaring Softly, a lukewarm 3.60-1 in the 1999 inaugural, has a domestically-based favorite won.
6. Find a price play
Longshots have punched above their weight, with eight winners going off at odds of 10-1 or higher. Shared Account (2010) sprang the biggest surprise when paying $94 as a 46-1 bomb. Another six winners were dispatched in the 5-1 to 10-1 range.
7. Watch the Flower Bowl
The key stateside prep historically has been the Flower Bowl, formerly a Grade 1 but a Grade 2 as of 2022. Six winners graduated from the Flower Bowl. The trend is fading over time, however, as the last alumna to take the Filly & Mare Turf was Stephanie’s Kitten. It remains to be seen if the Flower Bowl’s recent transfer to an earlier spot on the calendar, Labor Day Weekend at Saratoga rather than fall at Belmont Park, changes the trajectory.
8. Take on males or the Opera
International winners have used a wide array of stepping stones, but two angles are noteworthy. Five were coming off major races versus males. In recent years, the Prix de l’Opera (G1) on Arc Day has emerged as a pointer, producing three winners (two since 2017). None won the Opera, but all ran well and moved forward in the Breeders’ Cup.
9. Brown tops trainers
Chad Brown owns the most wins as a trainer (four), closely followed by Britain’s Sir Michael Stoute (three). Conspicuous by his absence is Aidan O’Brien, who has yet to win this race.
10. "Johnny V" for victory
John Velazquez tops all jockeys with a total of three wins. The Hall of Famer has also guided five mounts to placings in the Filly & Mare Turf.