The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the number one race for fillies and mares in the United States.
Run at 1 ⅛ miles on the dirt, the Breeders' Cup race is open to female Thoroughbreds who are at least three years of age. As with the males in the Classic, this race often settles the debates for Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Filly and Eclipse Champion Older Mare.
It has provided some of the most dramatic races of the last forty years. Zenyatta made this her first Breeders’ Cup win (though at the time the race was referred to as the Ladies Classic). Royal Delta, Beholder, and Monomoy Girl all won multiple editions of the race in recent years, as did Bayakoa in 1989 and 1990.
In 1995, Inside Information set a record winning margin for the Breeders’ Cup series, winning by over thirteen lengths. The 1988 Distaff, in which Personal Ensign showed every ounce of her talent and class to retire undefeated, is simply one of the greatest races of all time.
So what of this year’s Distaff? Here are four of the top contenders according to the latest Breeders' Cup 2022 betting odds.
This three-year-old daughter of Gun Runner may not have looked like much when finishing fourth behind Secret Oath and Nest in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks, but she has taken a step forward since then.
A month after the CCA Oaks, Society romped in the Grade III Charles Town Oaks. That served as a freshener for the Grade I Cotillion Stakes at Parx, which was not only a high-caliber race against quality fillies like graded stakes winners Adare Manor and Shahama, but a rematch against Secret Oath. This time, Society led from gate to wire, not once letting another filly within 1 ½ length of her.
Being by Gun Runner out of a Tapit mare, Society is bred to go the Distaff distance and then some. If she gets alone on the lead, she could be very dangerous.
While Society may be riding a high, she has yet to usurp, or even come close to, Nest, the top ranked three-year-old filly.
A winner of the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes at age two, Nest first came to national attention by dominating the Grade I Ashland Stakes in preparation for the Kentucky Oaks. She was favored in the latter race, but came up short to Secret Oath. Trainer Todd Pletcher then pointed Nest to the Belmont Stakes, a 1 ½ mile race against males. It was a bold choice, but the Curlin filly rewarded Pletcher’s faith with a good second behind stablemate Mo Donegal.
That proved the turning point for Nest’s career thus far. Returning to the distaff division, Nest became an unstoppable force. She followed her dozen-plus length win in the CCA Oaks with a six-length win in the Grade I Alabama Stakes (also against Secret Oath), and when facing older mares for the first time in the Grade II Beldame Stakes, she was hand-ridden to a 9 ¾ length victory.
Clairiere’s fifth-place finish in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes was disappointing, but with her fractious behavior before the race, it is somewhat understandable. It is likely that her race was run before the starting gate opened.
Aside from that, her record this year has been one of consistent excellence for the daughter of Curlin. She made her seasonal debut a winning one in an allowance race at Fair Grounds. She failed by 1 ¼ lengths in the Grade I Apple Blossom, running second to then-divisional-leader Letruska.
From then, however, Clariere took control of the older mare division. In the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap, she won a hard-fought stretch battle against Malathaat and prevailed by a head. She then won the Grade II Shuvee Stakes over Malathaat as well, only she widened the margin to 1 ½.
As mentioned previously, Clariere had an excuse for her poor performance in the Personal Ensign Stakes. However, that should not diminish the winner, Malathaat, who tracked the pace comfortably before going to the outside and running down Search Engine at the sixteenth pole.
Last year’s Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, Malathaat began her 2022 racing season by taking the Grade III Doubledogdare Stakes. She then went head-to-head with Clairiere, as mentioned above, and regained her winning ways in the Personal Ensign. She followed that with an easy 5 ¼ length score in the Grade I Spinster Stakes.
Yet another daughter of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare, Malathaat is bred on the same lines as Nest and very similarly to Clariere (whose damsire, Bernardini, is a son of A.P. Indy). The consistent quality this cross presents is evident.