Sunday’s $500,000 Flower Bowl (G1) at Belmont Park attracted a small field of six, but there are storylines aplenty in this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Trainer Chad Brown, winner of the past three Flower Bowls and four of the last six, is double-handed with Dacita and Grand Jete, while Irish shipper Zhukova launches her second New York invasion for the maestro Dermot Weld, Shug McGaughey’s War Flag has a sneaky look, and Graham Motion and Brendan Walsh are giving Guilty Twelve and Beauly, respectively, their chance at the top level.
Grand Jete was widely regarded as unlucky in the Beverly D. (G1) last out, suffering a traffic nightmare as stablemate Dacita booked her spot in the Breeders’ Cup. Closing with a rush when it was too late, Grand Jete forced a dead-heat for second with Dona Bruja and missed by all of a half-length to Dacita. The Juddmonte import had gone unbeaten in her first three U.S. outings, including the June 3 Eatontown (G3) at Monmouth, and now gets a rider switch to Javier Castellano. The three-quarter sister to multiple Australian Group 1 victor Foreteller, and close relative of current Musidora (G3) heroine Shutter Speed, should enjoy the added ground in this 1 1/4-mile inner turf test. Grand Jete also receives four pounds from 123-pound co-highweights Dacita and Zhukova.
Dacita, winner of the 2016 Diana (G1) at Saratoga and New York (G2) over this course and distance, had sustained a couple of tough beats herself in last fall’s Canadian (G2) and the May 13 Beaugay (G3). In both, the Chilean champion caught a rain-affected track that doesn’t suit her. A belated sixth in her New York title defense, she made her return to the winner’s circle in the Beverly D., and hopes to keep her momentum going here with regular pilot Irad Ortiz Jr. But Dacita’s team will have an eye on the weather, with a forecast calling for rain Thursday night and on Saturday night or Sunday.
Zhukova is herself interested in the meteorological department, for the opposite reason. The Fastnet Rock mare loves give in the ground, as evidenced by her six-length tour de force in the 1 3/8-mile Man o’ War (G1) in her last Belmont venture. Over a yielding course that day versus males, Zhukova trounced Taghleeb and eventual Sword Dancer (G1) upsetter Sadler’s Joy. She’ll hope enough well-timed rain arrives to change the conditions from firm (as of this writing Thursday), particularly since she’s competing over her minimum trip. Since the Man o’ War, Zhukova has found it tougher to beat top-class opponents going 1 1/4 miles on better ground, finishing fourth in the Pretty Polly (G1) for distaffers and eighth most recently in the Irish Champion (G1). Stable jockey Pat Smullen, who couldn’t make the Man o’ War, comes in for the Flower Bowl. It won’t be a shock if he puts her right on the lead in a race lacking a front runner.
War Flag has an international background too. Initially trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, the Joseph Allen homebred captured three of five in France, and didn’t miss by far in the other two. The War Front filly, who scored her signature win in last summer’s Prix Chloe (G3), has carried over her admirable consistency here. After kicking off her U.S. career in last-to-first style in a Monmouth allowance, War Flag was a hard-charging second – splitting Wekeela and Miss Temple City – in the Matchmaker (G3) and third in a paceless Glens Falls (G3). The full sister to Lines of Battle (aka Hong Kong champion stayer Helene Super Star) doesn’t figure to get much pace help here either, but perhaps she won’t have as much ground to make up in the compact field. Jose Ortiz has the return call.
Beauly, as a daughter of Sea the Stars, has likely needed longer distances than she’s gotten so far in her American career. Viewed in that context, her victory in the 1 1/16-mile Indiana General Assembly Distaff is commendable, and her fourths in the Violet (G3) and Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) (to Miss Temple City) aren’t that bad. Original trainer Charlie Hills thought she had the quality to try Royal Ascot, where she finished 13th in the 2016 Ribblesdale (G2), and she was a half-length second in the Lord Weinstock Memorial at this trip. Exported following her sale for 140,000 guineas at Tattersalls last December, Beauly teams up with Manny Franco.
Guilty Twelve is a Giant’s Causeway blueblood from the immediate family of classic victress Again, last Sunday’s Prix de la Foret (G1) hero Aclaim, and the great Montjeu. Although not up to that standard, and winless from three tries for Roger Varian in Great Britain, she has reached a new career high this season for Motion. Guilty Twelve resurfaced with a course-and-distance allowance win in May, then got up by a nose to surprise the 6-5 Zipessa in the Robert G. Dick Memorial (G3). If she can revert to that form, leaving her last-of-seven effort in the August 5 Waya (G3) behind – the Merry Fox homebred can enhance her broodmare value with a Grade 1 placing.