The winner of the 2015 Belmont Oaks a year ago was the splendid Lady Eli (by Divine Park), a velvety smooth mover who had shown her athleticism at the 2014 Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, then proceeded to win every start in career. She is 6 for 6.
Unfortunately, shortly after the Belmont Oaks, Lady Eli developed laminitis and has spent the intervening year first surviving the malady and then recovering her health and returning to training.
Just on July 10, the grand bay worked for the second time in her process of coming back to the races, getting a half-mile in :49.50 at Belmont.
That in itself is a notable accomplishment, and it is a credit to the filly’s handlers, including trainer Chad Brown, and to the veterinary care she has received that Lady Eli has not only survived laminitis but is on her way back to her best form.
At the time that Lady Eli won the Belmont Oaks, she was the only turf filly in America that I could find who had been able to remain unbeaten through so many starts on turf. That is an unusual accomplishment in any sphere, but turf racing, both due to the congestion of typically large fields, and to the frequent switching of horses from one surface to another, doesn’t promote “unbeaten-ness” in the States or anywhere else.
Just ask Frankel, who elevated himself to being one of the greatest of the greats by winning all his starts on his home surface.
Now, a year later, we have Catch a Glimpse (City Zip). After an unplaced finish in her debut on dirt (in a race originally scheduled on grass), Catch a Glimpse has not been defeated since, winning all eight of her subsequent starts, all on turf. So, while Lady Eli has been surviving, Catch a Glimpse has been thriving.
And Catch a Glimpse has thrived to such an extent that she was elected Horse of the Year in Canada for 2015, as well as divisional champion.
By the high-class 2-year-old racer City Zip, who has become a major sire through the consistent speed and class of his offspring, Catch a Glimpse became one of the few runners by her sire to excel at distances beyond an extended mile with victory in the Belmont Oaks. Another who did was the lovely filly, Dayatthespa, winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at 10 furlongs.
Likewise, Lady Eli is by a sire, Divine Park (Chester House), who showed his best form at a mile, with a victory in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap. Divine Park did not manage to sire performers with the consistency or high class of his star, and Lady Eli is the best performer by her sire, who now is standing in Korea.
Lady Eli and Catch a Glimpse do share the speed and stamina and class required to perform consistently at a mile in good company. The mile is no easy distance. It separates pure sprinters from those who can carry their speed somewhat, but it is too short for the pure stayers to show their advantage. The milers of highest quality also frequently become top breeding stock because they embody the speed and general level of athleticism required to perform in stakes company, either going shorter or longer than the mile.
The two fillies share some other qualities, in addition to coming from miler sires. Both won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf as 2-year-olds, and both progressed in dominating fashion against their contemporaries through mid-season of their second year of racing.
So, wouldn’t you love to see them race against each other?
If Lady Eli continues her rehabilitation and regains the form that made me rank her the best of her sex and age, regardless of surface, at 2 and 3, she would be a formidable and worthy opponent for Catch a Glimpse.
Whether they meet or not in the coming months, there is another turf mare who will be waiting for these young upstarts if they get uppity ideas about winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Last year’s Mile winner, the 5-year-old Tepin (Bernstein), won the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. She has won her last seven races in a row and 10 of her last 12, including five G1s.
I’m not sure about the grass on the other side of the fence, but the grass right here with these three top racers sure is green.