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Nov 04, 2011

Ladies' Classic to decide Three-Year-Old Filly title

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is the second straight year the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, formerly the Distaff, will have no bearing on the Eclipse Award for Older Filly and Mare. The two top older females are being kept out of the race, one is being given a rest and the other will start in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

In fact, the division crown has already been decided with Havre de Grace the odds-on pick to receive the honor no matter the outcome of the 1 1/4-mile Classic. The four-year-old filly is the 3-1 second pick in the program for the race and very likely could go off as the favorite in the now 12-horse field. Arch rival Blind Luck is on vacation after failing to fire in her last start of the year.

The 1 1/8-mile Ladies' Classic is dominated by three-year-old fillies as Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty is the 2-1 favorite and Alabama Stakes champ Royal Delta is 5-2 in the morning-line. It's Tricky, winner of the Acorn and Coaching Club American Oaks, is the 5-1 third choice in the 10-horse field.

"She wins Friday and she'll earn an Eclipse Award. There's a lot on the line," It's Tricky's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday about the value of this year's $2 million race.

The three fillies can be regarded as fresh since they all will have five weeks since their last starts. On October 1 Plum Pretty easily won the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing with It's Tricky a distant second and at Belmont Park runner-up Royal Delta was decisively beaten in the Beldame by Havre de Grace.

"She's an improving three-year-old. She's lightly raced, but she's coming into her own," trainer Bill Mott noted about Royal Delta. "She was a very easy winner in the Alabama. She finished second to Havre de Grace in her last race, and there's no Havre de Grace in the race on Friday. We feel good about her."

These fillies have faced off before. In the Alabama It's Tricky was second to Royal Delta with Plum Pretty finishing fourth after setting most of the pace. Four weeks earlier in the Coaching Club American Oaks, it was Plum Pretty second and Royal Delta third to It's Tricky.

The highest rated older female in the Ladies' Classic at 6-1 is Ask the Moon, trained by Marty Wolfson. The six-year-old won the Ruffian and Personal Ensign at Saratoga this summer. At Santa Anita she was sixth in the Lady's Secret behind Zazu who is now injured.

"She's full of energy. She couldn't be better or happier," noted Heather Irion, who is supervising Marty Wolfson's horses at Churchill Downs until he arrives on Friday.

Five-year-old Ultra Blend is 8-1 in the morning-line for trainer Art Sherman.

"She's tough as nails, and you don't have to worry about whether she'll try or not," Sherman said. "If she's in with good horses, she'll run with them at their level. She'll be tough in there."

Unlike Plum Pretty, Ask the Moon and It's Tricky, Ultra Blend is not a speed horse. She was second in the Lady's Secret, won the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar and was second in both the A Gleam and Milady Handicaps.

The advantage Royal Delta has over Ultra Blend and the speed horses is her tactical speed. The filly will leave from post six with Jose Lezcano riding.

"It's a good spot for her. No complaints," Mott said after the post position draw.

Mott has three wins in the Ladies' Classic having posted victories with Unrivaled Belle last year and in 1997 and 1998 with Ajina and Escena, respectively.

Sitting comfortably off the pace, Royal Delta is the pick for the final race Friday, giving her a coveted Breeders' Cup win and divisional bragging rights.

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