LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In Sheer Drama’s three races since August, she has had to tussle with at least one Grade 1-winning filly trained by Todd Pletcher. On Friday, when she starts in the Grade 1, $300,000 La Troienne on the Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs, that scenario is repeating again in a matchup against the Pletcher-trained two-time Grade 1 winner Curalina.
Although seven fillies and mares were entered in the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne, it could prove to be a two-horse race, provided Sheer Drama and Curalina run to form. Sheer Drama was made the narrow 8-5 morning-line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, with Curalina at 9-5.
Perhaps tipping the scales in favor of Sheer Drama is that she has started this year, winning a stellar renewal of the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland on April 9, while Curalina is unraced since a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which Sheer Drama ran fourth.
The 6-year-old Sheer Drama narrowly got the better of the Pletcher-trained Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria in the Madison, edging her by a neck in a stirring stretch duel under regular rider Joe Bravo. And following them across the wire in third was another elite mare, Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue.
“That was a power-packed field,” said trainer David Fawkes.
The La Troienne is not on par with the Madison is terms of quality and depth, though six of the seven entrants are stakes winners, including 7-2 third choice Penwith, who won the Grade 2 Royal Delta Stakes on Feb. 13 at Gulfstream Park before a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on March 19.
As rewarding and as prestigious as the La Troienne is, the race is a starting point for Curalina, a race designed to prepare her for the $1 million, Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11.
“I think she’s the type of filly that’s going to run well off the layoff,” Pletcher said. “She ran well at Churchill last year, and the spacing to the Phipps is good.”
La Troienne, Race 6
Last 3 Beyers: 100-91-98
She has finished first or second in eight of nine races in 2015-16, with the exception coming in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she started from post 13 and experienced an extremely wide trip.
Last 3 Beyers: 93-98-89
Formulator Fact: Pletcher is 5 for 18 over the past five years with horses running in graded stakes following layoffs of 180 days or more. Five others ran second.
Last 3 Beyers: 87-71-76
Making her first start of the year in a second-level allowance March 17 at Aqueduct, she had to work harder than expected to notch a one-length victory at short odds. Her trainer, Chad Brown, said she “got a lot out of the race.”
Last 3 Beyers: 89-97-86
A naturally speedy mare capable of winning on the lead or from a pressing position, she could potentially control the pace in a race relatively short of early speed.