Meet and Greet is one to beat
ARCADIA, Calif. – The days are shorter in autumn. This year, so is the California Distaff Handicap.
The $100,000 turf sprint for California-bred fillies and mares Saturday at Santa Anita has been shortened to five furlongs on the main turf oval, a departure from tradition. Since 1990, the race was 6 1/2 furlongs on the hill every year but one.
The abbreviated trip suits Meet and Greet, whose impressive comeback victory on Aug. 15 was her third win from four starts. It also was the shortest distance she has tried, five furlongs on the Del Mar turf.
“That made it easy to point for this race,” trainer Billy Morey said.
Meet and Greet might be the one to beat Saturday, though the 11-horse field is deep. Two-time stakes winner S Y Sky returns from a layoff, Love a Honeybadger threatens to wire the field, and stakes winners Ismelucky and How About Zero enter with appropriate credentials.
S Y Sky is the most accomplished in the field, and her 3-for-4 record includes two stakes wins. However, the California Distaff is her first start since July 2017, a layoff necessitated by injury. Trainer Phil D’Amato acknowledges the revised distance might be shorter than she prefers.
“She should be fit enough, but we’ll see if five furlongs is enough ground,” D’Amato said. “I’ve got a fit, healthy filly, and this looked like a nice race off the long layoff.”
The challenge for S Y Sky and Meet and Greet is negotiating a clean trip in a big field. That will not be an issue for front-runner Love a Honeybadger. She is the speed of the field, shortening from six furlongs on dirt to five on turf.
The California Distaff Handicap, previously named the California Cup Distaff, was run at Hollywood Park in 2010. This year, it is race 8 on a 10-race card at Santa Anita.
Meet and Greet, by Tribal Rule Last 3 Beyers: 83-62-75
◗ Morey is her third trainer. She made three starts for Phil D’Amato before breeders Gary and Mary West sold her to Peter Redekop. Bill Spawr trained the filly briefly this year, before she was transferred to Morey.
Drayden Van Dyke is her new rider. “He’s one of the best grass riders,” Morey said.
Since the start of Del Mar, Van Dyke and Flavien Prat each has 24 turf wins in Southern California.
◗ Meet and Greet possesses tactical speed and a finishing kick.
Love a Honeybadger, by Bushwacker Last 3 Beyers: 83-65-77
◗ Peter Miller trains Love a Honeybadger, whose sire has had one turf winner from 37 turf starts, according to Daily Racing Form statistics. Love a Honeybadger’s dam made three starts on turf, winning a non-graded stakes and placing in two graded stakes. Tiago Pereira rides.
S Y Sky, by Grazen Last 3 Beyers: 91-83-83
◗ D’Amato won the Cal Cup Distaff with Enola Gray in 2016 and Barbara Beatrice last year. Barbara Beatrice was returning from a 10-month layoff, similar to S Y Sky.