The three-year-old fillies route race this time around is named after Mine Forest, the winner of the 2001 Breeders Bowl Classic and five other G1 races for owner kywildcats. Bred in 1994, he raced until the ripe old age of nine, finishing in the money right up until the end with lifetime earnings over $7.5 million.
This race drew up very competitively, and it’s hard to completely count many of these horses out. The fillies will travel a mile and an eighth over a fast track. There are two established Grade I winners in this race, but there are several other fillies in here with less experience that have the talent to win this.
(1) FROSTED CAT (representing URC, owner nybreeds, 10/1) travels back up the East Coast to Vermont after firing too late last time out in an overnight stakes at Florida, finishing 5th. Her only stakes victory so far was in the URC Breeders Championship – Juvenile Fillies, where she defeated her fellow URC foes by 2 1/4 lengths with an SP number of 96. In her subsequent race, she won a NW4L allowance in December. She finished off the board in her only graded stakes start so far, finishing 5th in a Grade III back in September. However, that was before her most recent uptick in form, so while this is a pretty sizable step up in class compared to what she’s been facing, she’s got an outside shot.
(2) VT MIGHTY AWESOME (representing Pastures of Green, owner myt4go, 7/1) has yet to finish worse than second in 7 career starts, which is why we find her among the favorites in here. After starting her career on the dirt, she tried the turf the past two starts, finishing first and second. She has tried graded stakes company before, finishing second in a Grade III at Illinois in September. She also has a couple of races over this track for the hometown residency, winning a Pastures of Green stakes two back and finishing a solid second against open company in another residency stakes race in October. I think the stretchout to 9 furlongs and switch back to dirt will both help here, and I like her chances to be involved.
(3) MI VIEJA CARMITA (representing Sim Hispano, owner marisol, 25/1) is the second daughter of Frosted in this field along with FROSTED CAT, and she’ll be looking to make a big step up in class from what she’s been facing. She broke her maiden in the third start of her career, and then followed that up with a third-place finish in an allowance race. Her last race is intriguing – after solely racing at 5 or 5.5 furlongs, owner/trainer marisol threw her in a 9 furlong hot race last month. This particular race drew pretty tough, and she dusted the field of five by 2 lengths, putting up an SP number of 88. Obviously that is a step or two below what most of these horses have been running, but that was an impressive number for a hot race, and she clearly liked the stretchout. I wouldn’t discount her from cracking the top 5 at a nice price.
(4) RAISE A GHOST (representing Racing HQ, owner harrylanexp16, 11/1) is a very well-bred daughter of Ghostzapper, with A.P. Indy and Raise a Native farther down the pedigree. This will be her first stakes race of any kind, but she has put up some nice races so far, breaking her maiden on the first attempt. That was at 7 furlongs, and she has raced a sixteenth of a mile more in each start since, which will continue Saturday as she stretches out to 9 furlongs. She’s coming off a solid allowance win in late December, posting a 97 SP number in a field of 14. She’s a bit green compared to others in this field, but her form and pedigree hint that she could definitely be in contention here at the end.
(5) OTTO SWITCH (representing GR Simsters, owner binaural, 8/1) is one of two European-bred fillies in the race, and is coming into this race off two convincing wins, the first being a 2 1/2 length score in the Grade II Sell the Queen at New York in November. That race was at 9 furlongs, and then she stretched out to 9.5 furlongs last time out in an ungraded stakes race, stalked the early pace and smoked them in the stretch, winning by 3+ lengths. I really like her recent races, and she has not finished off the board since June. The SP number of 93 from last time out may partially reflect how easy she had it in the stretch, and I think she could be sitting on a big performance on Saturday.
(6) VERRAZANO TOLLS (representing EWC, owner mmstable11, 15/1) comes into this race after finishing third in her first stakes race, an overnight stakes at Florida last month. She had a very good freshman year, finishing first or second in all but one race, and her form has gradually been improving. Her last two SP numbers have been in the 90s, and her late-running style make me think she won’t mind the stretchout that much. Top Japan rider K Ledwith will get the mount in this race, the first time she’s faced graded stakes company. She will not be one of my picks in this race, but like many others in here, you just cannot completely count her out.
(7) BIG BIG POPPING (representing NWRC, owner jdawg11, 57/1) will leave the gate as the longest price on the board, as she has had her struggles against stakes company so far in her career. She kicked off her two-year-old campaign by winning a maiden hot race in her first start. Her next win came four starts later in a NW1x race at Hong Kong. She has raced against ungraded stakes company three times in her career, finishing 8th, 9th and 6th in those starts and failing to crack an 80 SP number. This race will be her first start in North America. She’s been improving of late, but given her recent performances against lower-quality horses, this will be a huge hill to climb.
(8) BEEF AND BEER (representing Blazing Saddles, owner mtkholding, 6/1) is another example of a very well-bred filly in this race (Curlin x Unbridled’s Song x Seattle Slew), and has had some nice races of late to back that up. She won her first two starts last year, but then stumbled a bit when taking the big step up from NW2L to the Grade I Getaway Stakes, although she finished respectably, around midpack. After a subsequent allowance win and a win in the Blazing Saddles Breeders Showdown, she never fully fired in the stretch last time out in an ungraded stakes race, finishing third. If she steps up, she’s right there, but I’m not convinced she’ll like the stretchout here. She’s out of a Grade II-winning sprinter, and her 4+ dosage index makes me think she may like something shorter.
(9) VAH (representing Elite, owner ric408, 11/1) has been perfect so far in her career, winning all four of her lifetime starts. She has blown right through the allowance conditions, winning an open NW3L race two back and then putting up a very impressive SP number of 98 in her last start, a 9 furlong NW4L allowance race at New York. She’ll now take the short van trip up the Adirondack Northway to Vermont to run here for the first time and try to make it an impressive five wins in a row. While these horses will certainly be more talented than what she’s been facing, the field in that January 20th race was solid, and it was at the distance of this race. I like her chances to at least be involved in the exotics at a nice price.
(10) OUTBACK BARGE (representing Midas, owner outback7, 8/1) has the least experience in this race, with just three lifetime starts. That being said, she just ran the best SP number of anyone in this field in her last race, a 103 in a NW2L allowance race at Kentucky on New Year’s Eve. The second and third place finishers in that race came back to win in their next start, so you have sort of a key race element to use for a horse that doesn’t have much experience. This will be a stretchout from a mile in her last two starts, but I suspect she’ll be able to handle the extra distance. She may be green with only three starts, but she hasn’t acted like it, and I expect her to be a factor in this race.
(11) TIFFIN (representing Megalopolis, owner gioponti, 19/1) will look to improve in here fifth career start, coming into this race off two wins. The daughter of Bodemeister, who is out of G1-winning mare AFTER SCHOOL, took a pair of races at West Virginia late last year, a maiden special weight and a NW2L allowance race. Her mother was at her best between 9-10 furlongs, so I don’t suspect the stretchout to 9 furlongs will be much of an issue for TIFFIN. Even so, just looking at her SP numbers, she has not been advancing quite as quickly as some of her peers in this race. It will take a big step up to make noise in this race.
(12) GOT STREET SMARTS (representing ASR, owner roscoe1, 8/1) is the first of two Grade I winners in this race, who both drew toward the outside of the field. She has a third-place finish over this track last May in a Grade II race, and then went on to post two impressive victories later in the year in the Grade I Getaway at New York and the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile Filly. Her last effort was pretty solid too, posting a 100 SP number while finishing second to TAKE WHAT’S GIVEN, who we’ll meet in a bit. With those two Grade I wins, she’s the leading earner in the field with nearly $1.7 million so far. She is certainly one who will need to be dealt with in this race.
(13) DIXIELAND BLUE (representing ESR, owner kingfaust, 11/1) is another horse in this field that is coming in hot with a couple of allowance victories. While out on the West Coast in California, she racked up two wins, including one at this distance of 9 furlongs last time out, where she won by almost two with an SP number of 97. She is out of G2-winning mare LITTLE ORPHAN BLUE, who preferred sprinting, but DIXIELAND BLUE seems to be doing better at the longer distances. She should be able to handle the distance, and this another one of the fillies in here that could easily contend, especially for one of the spots underneath.
(14) TAKE WHAT’S GIVEN (representing The Minnesota Testbarn Residency, owner canyongate, 5/1) will go off as the favorite, having hit the board in each of her three Grade I starts. She is coming off a great-looking win in the Grade I Movieland Starlet back in December at California, shrugging off GOT STREET SMARTS and the rest of the field by 2 1/4 lengths. This was definitely an improvement over her previous two starts, where she led both late in the race, but couldn’t hold off the late chargers. Jockey A Jolly, who guided her to a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Bowl Juvenile Filly, will get the mount here. I’m not sure she’ll like the extra sixteenth of a mile, but she definitely has the talent to win this race.
(12) GOT STREET SMARTS (ASR), 8/1 – Already has two Grade Is under her belt, and I think she may handle the extra sixteenth of a mile better than some others. She also has more jockey consistency than many in here, as jockey M Buck gets the fourth-straight mount.
(5) OTTO SWITCH (GR Simsters), 8/1 – Won a Grade II race handily two back at this distance, and had no problems last time out in an ungraded stakes at 9.5 furlongs. Has already proven that she can handle the distance and she looks sharp.
(14) TAKE WHAT’S GIVEN (Minnesota Testbarn Residency), 5/1 – Could very easily win this race if she runs like she did in the Movieland Starlet. Very talented.
(2) VT MIGHTY AWESOME (Pastures of Green), 7/1 – Don’t love the short price on this filly, but the experience here at VT, the stretchout to 9 furlongs and the move back to dirt all play in her favor.
(10) OUTBACK BARGE (Midas), 8/1 – We’ll have to see if that last race was a fluke or the real deal – she beat some good horses in that race, so I think she’ll be a factor in this race. I have a feeling that one of these more inexperienced allowance horses is going to grab a medal and finish better than what I have – VAH and RAISE A GHOST are the others that I think could make some noise.
Good luck to all!