This may not be Secretariat vs. Sham, Affirmed vs. Alydar, or Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer. But, Monomoy Girl vs. Swiss Skydiver in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff promises to be one of the best one-on-one racing duels of the year.

Monomoy Girl-BC Distaff
Breeders’ Cup Distaff 8/5 favorite Monomoy Girl owns a running style built on versatility and acceleration. She is 3-for-3 in 2020 entering her final career race Saturday. (Image: Churchill Downs)

If nothing else, it promises to give bettors a relative break on their multi-race wagers for Saturday’s nine-race Breeders’ Cup slate from Keeneland. The Distaff is the 10th of Saturday’s 12 races and a featured part of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Ultra Pick 6, the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Late Pick 5, and the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Late Pick 4.

The most prestigious race in the country for older female horses, the 1 1/8-mile Distaff goes to post at 12:54 p.m. PT with 10 fillies and mares in the gate. Six of those 10 own Grade 1 victories, but favorites Monomoy Girl (7/5) and Swiss Skydiver (2/1) relegate Ce Ce, Ollie’s Candy, Dunbar Road, and Valiance to understandable understudies in this play.

The $2 million Distaff’s winners roll includes many of the greatest female runners of the last two generations, including Lady’s Secret (1986), Personal Ensign (1988), Paseana (1992), Inside Information (1995), Azeri (2002), Ashado (2004), and the incomparable Zenyatta (2009).

Three Breeders’ Cup Distaff Repeaters

It also includes Bayakoa (1989, 1990), Royal Delta (2011, 2012), and Beholder (2013, 2016) – the only multiple winners. This is the company Monomoy Girl seeks to join, should the 5-year-old 8/5 favorite prevail in her final race. She is scheduled to hit the auction ring at the Fasig-Tipton sale on Sunday.

Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Morning Line (Jockey)

  1. Ce Ce, 12/1 (John Velazquez)
  2. Harvest Moon, 12/1 (Flavien Prat)
  3. Dunbar Road, 12/1 (Jose Ortiz)
  4. Horologist, 8/1 (Junior Alvarado)
  5. Swiss Skydiver, 2/1 (Robby Albarado)
  6. Lady Kate, 15/1 (Tyler Gaffalione)
  7. Point of Honor, 30/1 (Javier Castellano)
  8. Valiance, 12/1 (Luis Saez)
  9. Ollie’s Candy, 10/1 (Joel Rosario)
  10. Monomoy Girl, 8/5 (Florent Geroux)

Two years ago, Monomoy Girl captured the Distaff for one of her 12 victories. She took the next 18 months off due to various injuries, returning in May with an easy allowance victory at Churchill Downs. Trainer Brad Cox turned her loose in the Grade 2 Ruffian Stakes at Belmont two months later, and Monomoy Girl won by two lengths. Two months after that, Cox watched 2/5 Monomoy Girl take the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

“Everything we’ve done has been with the Breeders’ Cup in mind,” Cox told the Breeders’ Cup. “I really think she’s as good now as she was going into the 2018 Distaff. She’s on top of her game now, doing just fantastic.”

Monomoy Girl’s Relentlessness, Versatility Remains Key

This is a mare who doesn’t take prisoners. Monomoy Girl doesn’t blow horses off the track, but her relentless acceleration – especially around turns – is unlike any other filly or mare in the field. Where Monomoy Girl really stands out is her versatility. She can set the pace or press the pace, while her stalking ability casts a specter-like shadow over her competitors who know she’s there – waiting, waiting, waiting.

“It’s scary to see how well she’s moving, how happy she is and how fresh she is,” Cox said after her Wednesday workout.

Monomoy Girl should be fresh, considering she’s run a third of the races Swiss Skydiver ran this year. If there’s a throwback in any Breeders’ Cup field, it’s the 3-year-old second favorite, who already has nine races under her tack this year. She’s hit the board in eight of the nine: five wins, two seconds, and a third.

Reigning Preakness Champ in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Of course, the last win was the most memorable. Swiss Skydiver became only the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes, outdueling Kentucky Derby champion Authentic in one of the great stretch battles in Preakness history.

“I see what everyone else sees: a very, very good filly,” Cox said about Swiss Skydiver. “She’s [a] champion 3-year-old filly for sure. She’s tough. She’s danced a lot of dances this year and showed up every time. The Preakness was a race we won’t ever forget. I’m a fan of hers. I’m looking forward to the matchup.”

Like Monomoy Girl, Swiss Skydiver is cranked for this race. That Preakness victory gave her a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, where fellow 3-year-olds Authentic and Tiz the Law awaited. But her connections sensibly sent her into a race eminently winnable for a filly with the same pace-pressing, stalking qualities as her older rival.

‘Ticking Off the 12s’ Toward Her Goal

“Hopefully, I can get her tucked in the same as in the Preakness and tick off the 12s like she likes to do,” jockey Robby Albarado said. “Every eighth of a mile, she’ll go in 12 (seconds) and comes home as fast as you want her.”

Albarado inherited Swiss Skydiver’s reins during Preakness week after trainer Kenny McPeek and previous rider, Tyler Gaffalione, squabbled over Gaffalione’s availability. Albarado is so appreciative of the move he’s served as Swiss Skydiver’s exercise rider all week. He doesn’t want this ride getting away.

“I want to say she’s doing as good if not better than she was at Pimlico (Preakness week),” Albarado said. “She’s moving really well. She’s very confident. She’s so smart about everything. She knows where she’s at and what she has to do.”

The pick: Monomoy Girl. The Distaff is a favorite’s flavor, with the chalk prevailing 42% (15-for-36) of the time. Monomoy Girl owns the best Beyer Speed Figure in the field (111), comes in with peak form, and has the best overall arsenal of running styles of anyone in the field. It’s really hard to swim upstream here.