LOUISVILLE — For all the chatter this year over the parity in the 3-year-old male division, the sophomore girls have been just as exceptional at beating up one another.
Though they will have to face off against elders in the $2 million Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs, Friday's headline event of the Breeders' Cup World Championships card is shaping up as another tête-à-tête among the nation's best young distaffers.
When the morning line was announced for the 11⁄8-mile Ladies' Classic, the trio of 3-year-old fillies in the field were made the first, second, and third choices, led by Kentucky Oaks winner and 2-1 pick Plum Pretty.
With champion Blind Luck out of the Breeders' Cup and slated to be sold at the Keeneland November Sale, and Grade I winner Havre de Grace facing the boys in Saturday's $5 million Classic, the Ladies' Classic has become a contest free for the taking.
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Plum Pretty hasn't been the most consistent member of her class as she suffered three straight losses following her narrow Oaks triumph. The front-running daughter of Medaglia d'Oro put herself back in the forefront of the divisional race when she defeated fellow Grade I winner and Ladies' Classic rival It's Tricky by 71/2 lengths in the Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing on Oct. 1.
"I kind of had to talk (owner) John Fort into coming to Breeders' Cup with her," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Plum Pretty. "I said, 'Well she's doing well,' and I just thought there's a lot at stake here if she wins, not only money, but championship honors as well.
"She went off form after the (Oaks) but ... you have to let her use her speed. We're going to send her away and see how far she can take them."
Before Plum Pretty got the best of her in the Cotillion, It's Tricky had taken down both her and 5-2 second choice Royal Delta in the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks in July, which came on the heels of her victory in the Grade I Acorn.
The game of one-upmanship continued when Royal Delta then bested It's Tricky in the Grade I Alabama. The Bill Mott-trained filly is slightly more rateable than her sophomore counterparts, and she has been off the board only once in seven career starts.
"We think she's a very good filly, but we've got to step up and try to get it done," said Mott, who won last year's Ladies' Classic with Unrivaled Belle. "I think everybody who's seen her doing her gallops and breezes here think she's going well."
Staunch as the sophomores are, 6-year-old Grade I winner Ask the Moon could easily break up the parade of youth. The daughter of Malibu Moon won the Grade I Ruffian and Personal Ensign for trainer Marty Wolfson after being claimed for $75,000 in June and will be making her final career start before being sold at the Fasig-Tipton November sale on Sunday.
Medaglia d'Amourout of Ladies' Classic
Medaglia d'Amour was taken out of Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic by trainer Ben Cecil on Thursday morning after developing a temperature.
The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro would have been a long shot as she would have been seeking her first victory after three starts this season at Del Mar and Santa Anita.
Medaglia d'Amour was one of two defections on the day as Gung Ho was withdrawn from Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf by trainer Michael Maker because of soreness in his hocks.
Turf closureangers Europeans
Several European connections expressed their displeasure with Churchill Downs officials Friday after a decision was made to close the turf course for workouts when rain began falling in the area around 9:30 a.m.
Group II winner Sea Moon was scheduled to breeze 4 furlongs when the course was closed and three other European-trained horses, Farraaj, Strong Suit and Elusive Kate also were scheduled to go on the turf.
Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Sea Moon, asked Churchill Downs to reconsider, and he and trainer John Gosden, who handles Elusive Kate, walked down to the turf course entrance to make their case.
"We came all the way from England and paid a fortune to come," Stoute said. "Here we are just trying to get a nice final workout before the race, 10 drops of rain and he closes the track."
Churchill spokesman Darren Rogers said the track always cancels turf training when it rains.
"It's our standard operating procedure," he said. "There were several announcements ... about turf training at 9:30 a.m. being weather permitting."