Betting a Classy Keeneland Specialist in 2022 Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Zenyatta … Lady’s Secret … Beholder … Personal Ensign … Monomoy Girl … Inside Information … Royal Delta … Bayakoa… these are just a few of the champion fillies and mares who have claimed victory in the $2 million, Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The 1 1/8-mile Breeders’ Cup Distaff serves as a season-defining prize for the best fillies and mares in North America. The roster of winners reads like a “who’s who” of fleet female racehorses from the past four decades, and another name will join the list when the 39th Distaff is contested Nov. 5 at Keeneland Race Course.

A small, but stellar field was entered for the 2022 Distaff. Seven of the eight entrants are Grade 1 winners, and three of them competed in the 2021 Distaff. You could pretty much pick any horse at random and feel good about your chances of landing on the winner.

The most decorated horse coming into the Distaff is #1 Malathaat (3-1). From 13 starts, she’s accumulated nine wins, three seconds, and one third. As a 3-year-old in 2021, Malathaat compiled a stellar resume, winning the Grade 1 2021 Longines Kentucky Oaks, the Grade 1 2021 Central Bank Ashland Stakes, and Grade 1 2021 Alabama Stakes in addition to placing third (beaten half a length) in the 2021 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff. For her efforts, Malathaat received the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly.

Malathaat has put together another strong record in 2022. She started off on something of a quiet note, winning the Grade 3 Baird Doubledogdare Stakes before finishing second in both the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes and Grade 2 Shuvee Stakes. But Malathaat started wearing blinkers in the latter race and subsequently improved to win the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes and Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes.

The Personal Ensign is a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and Malathaat launched a determined rally to beat Grade 1 2021 Acorn Stakes winner #7 Search Results (9-2) by half a length, with reigning champion older dirt female Letruska settling for third place. Malathaat was even more impressive in the Spinster, romping from off the pace to trounce her rivals by 5 1/4 lengths.

The Spinster took place at 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland, the same conditions as the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. In fact, Malathaat boasts a perfect 3-for-3 record at Keeneland, giving her a subtle but potentially significant advantage for the Distaff. In a deep field where splitting the top contenders is akin to splitting hairs, Malathaat’s consistent affinity for Keeneland may give her the edge she needs to prevail.

#6 Nest (9-5) is another formidable Distaff contender. The 3-year-old daughter of Curlin secured her first Grade 1 win in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes during the spring at Keeneland, and she reaffirmed her class when finishing second with a troubled trip in the Grade 1 2022 Longines Kentucky Oaks and a second against males in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets.

Since the Belmont, Nest has been unstoppable. Back against 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga, Nest had no trouble defeating Kentucky Oaks winner #3 Secret Oath (15-1) by margins of 12 1/4 lengths and four lengths. Then Nest tackled a small field of older rivals in the Grade 2 Beldame Stakes at Belmont at the Big A, which she dominated by 9 1/4 lengths.

Nest has more early speed than Malathaat and should be tough to run down in the Keeneland homestretch but the Distaff marks her stiffest test to date, and facing Grade 1-caliber older rivals will be a meaningful challenge.

Then there’s #4 Clairiere (4-1), one of the toughest Distaff contenders to interpret. The Grade 1 2021 Cotillion Stakes winner wasn’t quite a match for Malathaat last season, finishing behind her rival in all four of their meetings. But earlier this summer in New York, Clairiere elevated her game to a new level, launching last-to-first rallies to defeat Malathaat in both the Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Shuvee Stakes.

A different outcome unfolded in the Personal Ensign. Clairiere was fractious at the gate, trailed throughout, and reportedly came back with a cut on her tongue. It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong in the Personal Ensign, but Clairiere has turned in a quick series of workouts since then and could rebound in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The fact she’s already defeated Malathaat twice this season hints Clairiere has a shot to exceed expectations in her Keeneland debut.

The biggest wildcard in the Distaff field is surely #8 Society (6-1), a 3-year-old daughter of hot, young stallion Gun Runner the 2017 Horse of the Year. Society boasts a near-perfect 5-for-6 record, and while her lone defeat was a distant one against Nest in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Society has improved by leaps and bounds since then and enters the Distaff in red-hot form.

Society was impressive in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks  sprinting seven-eighths of a mile, leading all the way to trounce her rivals by 6 3/4 lengths. She was even flashier in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes over 1 1/16 miles, again leading from the start to beat a quality field (including Secret Oath) by 5 3/4 lengths.

If you’re a fan of Brisnet Speed ratings, it’s worth noting Society is the fastest horse in the Distaff field. Her 109 rating from the Cotillion tops the career-best 108 ratings belonging to Malathaat, Nest, and Clairiere. Society has never squared off against older rivals and still has to prove she can hold her own against Nest, but she’s progressing in the right direction and can’t be dismissed from consideration.

So how should we bet the Distaff? Let’s key Malathaat on top of trifecta and superfecta wagers; if we can correctly select the top three finishers (for the trifecta) or the top four finishers (for the superfecta), we’ll be in line for big payoffs.

Underneath Malathaat, we’ll count on Nest to finish either second or third. For the remaining slots, we’ll use Clairiere, Society, and Search Results, favoring the first two.

Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget

$2 trifecta: 1 with 6 with 4,7,8 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $2 trifecta 1 with 6 with 4,7,8

 $2 trifecta: 1 with 4,8 with 6 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $2 trifecta 1 with 4,8 with 6

Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget

$4 trifecta: 1 with 6 with 4,7,8 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $4 trifecta 1 with 6 with 4,7,8

$4 trifecta: 1 with 4,8 with 6 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $4 trifecta 1 with 4,8 with 6

$1 superfecta: 1 with 6 with 4,7,8 with 4,7,8 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $1 superfecta 1 with 6 with 4,7,8 with 4,7,8

$1 superfecta: 1 with 4,8 with 6 with 4,7,8 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, Race 9, $1 superfecta 1 with 4,8 with 6 with 4,7,8

Good luck and enjoy the race!