Sistercharlie has been the star of the American filly and mare turf division for about a year and a half now. She has won 10 of 14 career starts, including two straight editions of the Beverly D. (G1) at Arlington, two straight editions of the Diana (G1) at Saratoga, and last year's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.
Can she be beaten?
The history of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf makes me think she can. The chalk hasn't had a very good time of things in recent years: remember, Sistercharlie wasn't the favourite last year. The only favourite to win the race in the last ten years was 2013 Beverly D. winner Dank. Especially when there's a well-known and well-loved American horse, the Filly and Mare Turf is a great place to find overlays on horses who bring top-level class to the table.
Consider 2016: Lady Eli was 8/5 in a field of 13. Queen's Trust? 8/1. Yes, Queen's Trust was still eligible for a one-other-than at the time, but she was holding her own against proper Group 1 company: 2nd in the Nassau (G1), 3rd in the Yorkshire Oaks (G1), 3rd in the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes (G1). And, Queen's Trust got up.
Classy three-year-old Europeans often do well in the Filly and Mare Turf: three-year-olds have won five editions of the race, and all five have been European based, four in Britain and one in France. Two of those winners, Wuheida (2017) and Midday (2009), have come out of the Prix de l'Opera (G1).
Which brings us to Villa Marina.
Villa Marina's star is on the rise. She has won three of her last four starts, including the Prix de l'Opera. The only one of her last four that she didn't win was the Prix Vermeille (G1): but, that was her first G1 try, and it was at a mile and a half, perhaps a longer distance than she wants to go. Still, she ran a good fourth, beaten only two lengths by Star Catcher. Star Catcher franked that form by going on to win the Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes. Now, Villa Marina cuts back to a mile and a quarter, a distance at which she has never been worse than second in five starts. That distance hits her right between the eyes.
One of the questions about European invaders is always the ground. Villa Marina's two Group-level wins came over soft turf, but that credible effort in the Prix Vermeille as well as her earlier victory in the Prix de Colonne Vendome came over better ground, giving her a chance to handle this firm California footing.
Villa Marina has also shown pace-versatility, able to track closer up or sit midpack. That's key, especially given the scratch of Sistercharlie's trusty pacesetter Thais. It doesn't leave the race completely paceless: Mirth stole the Rodeo Drive (G1), and without Thais, Mirth is probably going to try to steal this one, too. But, Villa Marina won't have to sit too far back, and if she can kick on like she has been in those mile and a quarter races overseas, Sistercharlie may find her mighty hard to catch in time.
For over 60 pages of full Breeders' Cup picks and analysis, check out the comprehensive report that Laurie Ross and I co-authored at ThoroCap. It's full of trends, workout notes, and horse-by-horse analysis that you won't get anywhere else. Learn more about it here, see the preview (analysis of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile), and get the full guide!
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