Meet and Greet is one to beat

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Brad Free

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.

KEY CON­TENDERS

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.

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