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The Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles features the return of Breeders’ Cup Distaff third-place finisher Forever Unbridled, as well as a rematch between Big World and Romantic Vision, the top two finishers in the Grade 1, $300,000 La Troienne Presented by Spirited Funds. Forever Unbridled was a bit of a surprise entry because she was not mentioned in press releases leading up to the race, but she is a welcomed addition to the field. The race is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series, with the winner earning a berth into this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
NBCSN will be onsite live from 8:30-10 p.m. on Saturday to launch its 2017 “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In, presented by Lane’s End Farm and America’s Best Racing” television schedule. Also, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will air live coverage from 8-10 p.m. ET online at www.horseracingradio.net.
This year’s Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, now in its fourth year on NBC and NBCSN, will showcase 11 live programs featuring 17 qualifying races and other major stakes on the road to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Del Mar on November 3rd and 4th.
#1 Forever Unbridled – As the 2017 older filly and mare division heats up, it’s easy to forget about Forever Unbridled, who proved to be third-best last year behind two great horses, Beholder and Songbird. Event though we haven’t seen her since last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, it’s still exciting seeing her back in action. As far as this race goes, if she’s in decent shape, she should win. She towers over this field from both a class and a speed figure standpoint. Trainer Dallas Stewart wouldn’t enter her unless she’s ready, so expect her to kick off her 2017 season with a solid race.
#5 Big World – This winner of four in a row, including the La Troienne last time out in the slop, has never finished off the board in 11 career starts. This mare possesses strong class. There’s a good chance that the slop moved her up, but she is still the logical alternative to Forever Unbridled in this spot. She could have a pace advantage due to her early speed and a lack of other early speed signed on here.
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#3 Carrumba – This mare might have seen better days. She’s made three starts this year since returning from a long layoff and doesn’t seem like she’s rounded back into her old form. This is a “now or never” race for her. I can’t back her with confidence until she gets back to her old self. She looks like an underneath play.
#2 Walkabout – Coming into this on a two-race win streak, including the Grade 3 Matron here last out, she’ll be rooting for a hot pace because of her late-closing running style. She won’t get that same pace to run at, though, because there aren’t that many foes that like to go early. She’ll come with a run, but it might be too little too late.
#6 Romantic Vision – She ran a solid second last time out in the La Troienne, but her other graded stakes efforts weren’t as successful, so I’m on the fence as to how she’ll do here. From a speed figure standpoint, she matches up pretty well, but did the sloppy track move her up a little bit last time out? Regardless, she’s still a logical underneath play.
#7 Apologynotaccepted – She has to improve from a speed figure standpoint, but you have to like her recent winning streak coming into the race. Not only has she won three in row, but she’s won them very easily while never being challenged. This will be a big step up in class, as she’s never run in a stakes race of any kind. Trainer Bill Mott thinks she’s ready to pull off an upset at a decent price if she is indeed ready to tackle tougher company.
#4 Crooked Stick – She’s had a few tries against graded company, but hasn’t had much luck. It’s hard seeing that change today, so don’t expect her to make an impact.
#8 Tiger Moth – She might be more of an allowance horse because she’s struggled in her last couple of races against top-flight company. This race isn’t the hardest Grade 2 that you’ll ever see, but it still might be a little over her head.
#9 Weep No More – One of the most overhyped horses we’ve had in a while, she pulled off a big upset in the Grade 1 Ashland as a 3-year-old but has done nothing since. She really needs a class drop and won’t be getting it here.
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