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Saturday’s $150,000 Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct kicks off the track’s Road to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and presents its unique annual challenge for the juvenile fillies signed on to run: who can handle going 1 1/8 miles this early in their careers?
Though the Oaks itself is 1 1/8 miles, most of the 3-year-old fillies who enter its gate each year do so having not won (or sometimes even started in) races that far, but Aqueduct’s layout is such that this is the shortest a two-turn dirt event can go. In fact, Aqueduct is the only North American facility that holds Oaks preps (3 in all) at that distance; every other major circuit’s final prep race is 1 1/16 miles.
Like its male counterpart the Remsen, plenty of talented horses have emerged from the Demoiselle in recent years to enjoy immense success routing, including winners Wonder Gadot (2017) and Stopchargingmaria (2013). Understanding that the Demoiselle is major stamina test, let’s take a closer look at the pedigrees of this year’s contenders and see what we find:
1. Malathaat – The undefeated filly is the 4/5 favorite partially because of her 2 dominating wins (including the 1-mile Tempted Stakes), but she’s also bred to run all day long and half the night. She’s one of three entries sired by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, whose lofty on-track record is matched by his success as a stallion: his progeny have won 602 of their 3,281 dirt route starts (through December 2, 2020), an 18% clip.
Malthaat’s dam Dreaming of Julia won her first 3 career starts (all as a juvenile) by over 26 lengths and won the 2013 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) (then held at 1 1/8 miles) by over 21 lengths. She herself was sired by the legendary champion A.P. Indy and was out of the multiple Grade 1 sprint-winning dam Dream Rush.
Distance Pedigree Grade: A
2. Traffic Lane – She’s tried to race on turf in all 3 starts to date and broke her maiden last time out in the only try that wasn’t rained off the lawn. She’s from the first crop of sire Outwork, who won 3 of 5 starts including the local 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial in 2016 and is himself a son of top stallion Uncle Mo, the 2010 Champion 2-Year-Old Colt whose longest win came going 1 1/16 miles.
Her dam Katie Lane made only 1 career start, finishing eighth in a 7 1/2-furlong turf maiden special weight, but Traffic Lane’s damsire Quality Road was 4-3-1-0 in 1 1/8-mile dirt routes, and her granddam, Day Mate, broke her maiden going this same distance on turf.
Distance Pedigree Grade: B
3. Millefeuille – The second Curlin daughter in the field, her comparisons to Malathaat don’t end there; she, too, is exceptionally well-bred, a staple of Juddmonte Farms homebred runners. Her connections have said since before her debut that she is expected to be a two-turn runner.
Her dam, Bandana, was an unraced daughter of War Front, whose progeny seem to excel best at middle distances on turf, and she was out of Honest Lady, a 4-time graded stakes-winning sprinter by the 1977 Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew. While Honest Lady was not a successful router herself, she is out of the blue hen Toussaud, who produced 4 Grade 1 winners including Empire Maker (see Cafe Society below), Chester House, and Chiseling.
Distance Pedigree Grade: B+
4. Malibu Curl – The third Curlin daughter in the field is the first foal to race out of Prospector’s Moon, whose lone victory came in a 7-furlong bullring route at Charles Town. Her sire, Malibu Moon, only raced twice as a juvenile before retiring but blossomed as a stallion, passing on much of the talent that he inherited from his sire, A.P. Indy. Among Malibu Moon’s top progeny is Orb, the 2013 Kentucky Derby champ.
Malibu Curl’s granddam on the female side of the family, Gold Rush Queen, was winless in 6 starts but came within a 1/2-length of winning a 1 1/16-mile route at age 3 in her final start. Gold Rush Queen’s sire is Seeking The Gold, who was a prolific winner at 1 1/8 miles and beyond.
5. Dollar Mountain – She is from the first crop of sire Upstart, whose 2 career graded stakes wins came at 1 1/16 miles. Upstart’s sire, Flatter, is himself a son of A.P. Indy, but Flatter has largely produced runners better suited for middling or one-turn distances. Upstart’s dam Party Silks was unraced.
Her dam Constantinople’s lone win came in a 1-mile maiden special weight on synthetic, and of Dollar Mountain’s three older siblings to race, only one enjoyed mild success when routing. Her damsire Istan only won once beyond 1 mile (it was 1 1/16 miles), but her granddam Silver Comic won 4 turf routes including a Grade 2.
Distance Pedigree Grade: C
6. Cafe Society – She’s a daughter of Empire Maker, who like Curlin has seen his progeny excel in dirt routes at a high rate (17%). Empire Maker won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial (both at 1 1/8 miles) before finishing second in the Kentucky Derby (1 1/4 miles), then won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
Cafe Society’s dam Full Tap earned all 3 career wins in turf sprints, but she’s a daughter of elite stallion Tapit, who’s sired 3 Belmont Stakes winners since 2014. Full Tap’s dam Miss Challenge won 2 routes on turf and is a daughter of middle-distance sire More Than Ready.
7. Caramocha – She’s a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, a son of Empire Maker (see Cafe Society above) whose notable progeny include the 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic champion American Pharoah. Pioneerof the Nile offspring have a 15% win rate in dirt routes (from over 1,500 starts through December 2).
Her dam, Rumors of Glory, found victory just once, coming in a turf sprint maiden special weight, and Caramocha’s siblings’ records in dirt routes is a combined 22-3-4-7. However, both Rumors of Glory’s sire (Storm Cat) and damsire (A.P. Indy) were quite capable of producing distance runners, and Rumors of Glory’s dam, Indy Glory, earned 4 of her 5 career wins in dirt routes.
Distance Pedigree Grade: B-
8. Celestial Cheetah – She carries the flag from the first crop of sire Social Inclusion, whose 2 of 3 career wins came going 1 1/16 miles but could not do better than third when running longer. However, his sire was Pioneerof the Nile (see Caramocha above), and though Social Inclusion’s dam (Saint Bernadette) only won when sprinting on dirt, her sire was Saint Ballado, who also fathered the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Saint Liam (among other champions).
Celestial Cheetah’s dam Dandy Dulce was mostly competed in lower claiming level dirt sprints, but she did earn 1 route score. Her sire, Dixieland Heat, won the Louisiana Derby when it was held at 1 1/16 miles, though he also was better suited in shorter events. Additionally, Celestial Cheetah’s siblings are a combined 46-2-8-7 in dirt routes.
Distance Pedigree Grade: C-
Pedigrees are an essential tool when handicapping, but like any angle in horse racing, nothing is a sure thing. For example, War Front is currently considered the best turf sire in North America, yet he was only successful on the track as a dirt sprinter?
Check out our Inside Track to the Cigar Mile wagering guide to see what we think of the Demoiselle, the Remsen, and the rest of the Saturday card at Aqueduct!
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