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BC Filly & Mare Turf Has Strong Arlington Appeal
The $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf often has a strong Arlington connection and the 2008 renewal to be run Friday at Santa Anita Park is no exception. Dynaforce, this year's Beverly D. heroine, lines up against Filly & Mare Turf defending champion Forever Together, a 2008 Arlington stakes winner, and Pure Clan, victress in this year's Grade III Modesty Handicap.
Dynaforce looks to rebound after a poor run in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park where she suffered a 20-length defeat over very soft going.
Trainer Bill Mott said he has long ago put a line through that race and is expecting the Beverly D. winner to show up in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Friday.
"It looks like she'll be one of the speed horses in the field," Mott said after Dynaforce returned from an early jog Thursday morning. "She was game in this race last year. She would have been more of a factor, but she ran into some trouble. She should be a factor this year."
Dynaforce was unable to establish position in last year's Filly & Mare Turf and was steadied on the inside when Halfway to Heaven interfered with her. She finished eighth, beaten only four lengths by the winner Forever Together, and was moved up to seventh by the stewards.
The daughter of Dynaformer, on the board in 11 of 16 grass starts, will have a different rider in this year's renewal as Kent Desormeaux replaces Alan Garcia.
Meanwhile, Forever Together, the defending Filly & Mare Turf champion, followed her usual routine at Santa Anita Thursday morning, galloping 1 1/4 miles over the training track.
"To me she's as good as she's ever been," trainer Jonathan Sheppard said. "Some people, some friends in the media, claim she's lost a step, but I don't actually think she has. She seems fine to me."
Win or lose in Friday's 1 1/4-mile turf race, Forever Together will likely be retired.
"This will probably be her last race. She's going to be bred next year," Sheppard said. "I'm going to miss her. In fact, I have mixed emotions when I even look at her, because I know I'm running on borrowed time. She's been a big part of my life for the last three years."
While Pure Clan finished her preparation for the race with an early morning gallop over the turf course and then walked the shedrow as trainer Bob Holthus and her owner watched on.
Holthus, who has been training since 1952, believes that a long campaign contributed to Pure Clan's poor showing in the Filly & Mare Turf (10th) last year and gave the 4yo a lighter schedule by design.
"She's matured a lot since last year," said Holthus, who arrived in California on Wednesday afternoon. "She has probably put on 100 pounds. We also got a little later start with her this year, but it's turned out well. This will be just her fifth race."
The Pure Prize filly enters the race off an impressive win in the Flower Bowl Invitational, which Holthus believes may have been a turning point for the filly.
"She ran a big race," Holthus said. "We were worried about the soft turf, but she showed real gameness in the stretch. I think it may have been the best race of her career. She didn't always put it all out. This year, she's put it all together. She's much improved."
On Friday, Pure Clan will be ridden by Garrett Gomez for the first time because regular rider Julien Leparoux has opted to stick with returning champion Forever Together. While one may assume that Holthus turned to Garrett because he won four Breeders' Cup races last year, or because he's one of the leading riders in the country, there is actually a long history between the rider and Holthus.
"I've known Garrett since he was this high," said Holthus, holding his hand barely above his knee. "He was raised on my farm (Kilkerry Farm). His dad used to gallop horses for me."