Race 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
BC Juvenile Fillies Turf
Plum Ali Campanelle Aunt Pearl Royal Approval Madone Spanish Loveaffair

(Aunt Pearl, on the outside / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

When you enter the final race of the year and the “Championship” is on the line, who do you look to and gander at to finish off the title?

You have to start with the horse that has done it all, right?

You have to start with the horse that has answered the bell and rung the chimes at the end? Every time, up till now. Right?

You to have to finish the discussion with the filly that is undefeated and unchallenged? Going in. Maybe coming out?

Well, that’s where we start. It may not be where we end up, though. This field is “Plum” full of capable contenders and challengers. It may be “Plum” full of upset potentials, too. Time will tell.

Take a look at our top picks:

  1.  Plum Ali (First Samurai — Skipping, by Stroll): Like the top contenders in the “dirt version” of the Juvenile Fillies, this April foal has racked up an undefeated record after the first three career races. Broke the maiden at Saratoga in late July. Won that two-turn even by an easy 2. Travelled to Kentucky Downs next and won the Juvenile Fillies Stakes there by an easy 3. The runner-up came right back to win the next out, too. Then, this one went back to NY to annex the G2 Miss Grillo Stakes by an easy 21/4 lengths. Three outs. Three wins. Three easy wins. No reason to believe that she won’t be ready to go come Friday. The only thing different, though, may be the level of the competition. And, this one does rally from off the pace — most of the time. That means she will need a clear path or the overland route. Obstacles. But certainly not unsurmountable. The first dam of this one didn’t win in 8 career starts. The second dam, by Saratoga Six, won 7 times in 22 outings and earned nearly $200,000 — but no black type. The third dam was by Halo and won just one of 5. Not much to write home in terms of runners. But this one is certainly making up for it.
  2. Campanelle (Kodiac — Janina, by Namid): This Irish-bred filly is a perfect 3-for-3, too. And, this one is not only a world-class runner, she is a world-class traveller. After breaking the maiden at Gulfstream Park in May, she went to Royal Ascot and won the Group 2 Queen Mary. From there, she was off to France, where she won a Group 1 event in Deauville. Now, she’s back for Sir Wesley Ward. She’s back home, where it all started — on the green, green grass of Keeneland. The works are just modest enough, but the record restores hope in the way she runs. Has to be considered. Just has to be.
  3. Aunt Pearl (Lope de Vega — Matauri Pearl, by Hurricane Run): This is another Irish-bred runner and another undefeated filly. This one comes from the barn of Brad Cox, who has a sparkling record when it comes to teaching fillies how to win. This one certainly has a chance to be the next one in a long, long line of fillies to excel for this trainer. She broke the maiden at Churchill Downs by 5. She won the G2 Jessamine over this same turf at Keeneland by an easy 21/2 lengths. At no point, yet, has she faced another eye ball equal to hers. Has speed to burn. And, she may burn the rest of them from start to finish.
  4. Royal Approval (Tiznow — touch the Moon, by Malibu Moon): This is yet another pupil of Sir Wesley Ward, who we have knighted as the current “king” of the 2YO racing in NA. She is coming off back-to-back wins, including an impressive victory in the G3 Matron at Belmont Park in her last outing on Oct. 11. Will now have to stretch out to two turns for the first time. Barn wins with .17% of those doing it. But this is a tough place to try it for the first time.
  5. Madone (Vancouver — Indian Love Call, by Cherokee Run): Another undefeated challenger shows up here. Three starts, to date. Three wins. Has not faced Graded company, as of yet, but this deep, deep closer has managed to win both the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar and the Surfer Girl Stakes at Santa Anita. Extra ground here should not be an issue. Dam of this one has two turf winners from 6 starters and 5 winners overall. Chance in this crowd.
  6. Spanish Loveaffair (Karakontie — Spanish Bunny, by Unusual Heat): After winning the first two outings, this one caught up with Aunt Pearl at Keeneland in the Jessamine. No match to match strides with that one, but no-one else has managed to do that either. Be interesting to see if she can carry her speed over this route of ground. May fall a bit short when the real racing begins late.

How We Play It:

While Plum Ali and Campanelle have startling credentials and no one change argue with their style and grace, I am going to ante up with Aunt Pearl. The win over the track is one factor. The way she handled the surface and the competition is another. She is classy and fast. Two nice ingredients when it comes to Thoroughbred racing. I bet Aunt Pearl across the board and then box the top 3 choices in one exacta. I will key Aunt Pearl over/under the “all button” in two smaller units.