'She Got Her Head Down At The Right Moment': Malathaat Wins Thriller In Breeders' Cup Distaff - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘She Got Her Head Down At The Right Moment’: Malathaat Wins Thriller In Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Malathaat, left, defeats Blue Stripe (center) and Clairiere to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff

It was billed as the best race across all of Breeders' Cup weekend, and Saturday afternoon's $2 million Distaff certainly did not disappoint. The 1 1/8-mile route evolved into a three-way dogfight at the sixteenth pole between last year's 3-year-old filly champion Malathaat, Argentine-bred Grade 1-winner Blue Stripe, and Stonestreet's royally-bred Grade 1 winner Clairiere.

Moving in unison down the final 100 yards of the Keeneland stretch, the trio showed immense heart as the wire loomed. Blue Stripe, at 24-1, was nearly even with 6-1 chance Clairiere, but 5-2 second choice Malathaat was closing with every stride. At the finish, it was Shadwell's Malathaat and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez who finished a nose in front to wrap up the divisional championship. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to her stablemate, 7-5 favorite Nest.

“When we first watched the race, we thought we won but they kept showing the replay, it got closer each time,” said Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. “She had a lot of momentum and was hoping she had enough time to get there. She got her head down at the right moment.”

It is the third win in the race for both Pletcher and Velazquez. The two teamed up in 2004 with Ashado with Pletcher getting his second Distaff victory at Keeneland in 2015 with Stopchargingmaria while Velazquez got his second in 2017 with Forever Unbridled.

“I wasn't surprised (I won),” Velazquez admitted. “I thought I got the bob and then I wasn't sure. When you got that much trust from a guy like Todd Pletcher and gives me the opportunity to ride these good horses, it makes it easy when you have to make adjustments during the race.”

Malathaat was Curlin's third Breeders' Cup winner on the Saturday card, following Cody's Wish in the Dirt Mile and Elite Power in the Sprint. The final time was 1:49.07 over Keeneland's fast main track, and took the filly's record at Keeneland to four wins from four starts.

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Society led the field a half-mile in :47.29 while under pressure from Blue Stripe and Search Results as Malathaat raced near the back of the eight-horse field. Society carried her lead to the top of the stretch where Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath and favored Nest challenged to her outside and Blue Stripe surged on the inside.

Secret Oath took over at the three-sixteenths pole but was quickly confronted by Blue Stripe to her outside while Malathaat rallied three-wide and Clairiere slipped through along the rail. Secret Oath dropped out at midstretch leaving Blue Stripe in charge until the final jump when Malathaat got up.

Trainer Marcelo Polanco was not surprised by longshot Blue Stripe's performance: “She's was training super… You get to this point, 25-1, amazing.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Clairiere, lamented: “She ran a fabulous race. It was just inches… inches…”

The full order of finish was as follows: Malathaat, Blue Stripe, Claireire, Nest, Secret Oath, Search Results, Society, and Awake at Midnyte.

Regarding fourth-place finisher and favorite Nest, Pletcher said: “That's the situation you're in when you run more than one horse in a race. Nothing worked out well for Nest today. She didn't jump well from the start. She was spinning her wheels around the first turn. And she was very wide all the way around. And because she wasn't really in the position we wanted her to be, Irad had to make a little bit of a move sooner than he wanted to, and very wide while doing it. I was concerned when they hit the first turn that it wasn't going her way today.”

Bred in Kentucky by Barbara Banke's Stonestreet, Malathaat is out of Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, also trained by Pletcher. Shadwell purchased Malathaat for $1,050,000 from consignor Denali Stud at the Keeneland September Yearling sale, and the mare rewarded her purchasers with five straight wins to kick off her career, including the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. She experienced her first defeat in the G1 CCA Oaks, but returned in fine form to win the G1 Alabama en route to the 2021 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

A complete pace meltdown at Del Mar led to Malathaat finishing third, beaten half a length by 49-1 longshot Marche Lorraine. This year, the filly won the G3 Doubledogdare to kick off her season, but was beaten in her next two starts by Clairiere. After that first defeat, in the G1 Ogden Phipps, Pletcher added blinkers to Malathaat's race day equipment.

“It's something that we've actually been thinking of since her 2-year-old year,” he explained. “She's a very curious filly. She sees everything. And she has that tendency to wait when she makes the lead.

“Meanwhile, she's reeling off win after win and it's difficult to make an equipment change. But really the defining moment was in the Ogden Phipps when Johnny came back and said — it was really hard to make out watch it, I guess he sensed it being on her back, just before the wire she saw something and tapped on the brakes. Got beat a nose and he said, we've got to do it.

“So we did and the first start it didn't work out (the G2 Shuvee, in which Malathaat ran fourth behind Clairiere). But that was a tricky day at Saratoga. It was wicked hot. I've never seen her behave that way in the paddock. I think she was just bothered by the hot weather. She was very irritated. And she didn't run a race that day at all.

“But we were confident enough that we were making the right decision that we stayed with the equipment change.”

Malathaat returned to win the G1 Personal Ensign and G1 Spinster heading into this year's Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. Overall, her record stands at 10 wins from 14 lifetime starts for earnings of $3,790,825.

“She can be a little tricky,” Pletcher admitted. “She needs a little while to get revved up, and you can't make the lead too soon with her. I told Johnny that's timing it a little close for my liking!”

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