LEXINGTON, Ky. – Last fall, Watsdachances finished ahead of all but one other horse in the defining race in her niche, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. So when the Irish-bred filly makes her 3-year-old debut Thursday in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, it will be with lofty expectations indeed for a big 2013.
“This is a great spot to bring her back,” said Peter Bradley, who manages the partnership that bought and owns Watsdachances. “She couldn’t be training any better and she has really matured in the time off we gave her. Hopefully, this will set us up for some big races at Belmont and Saratoga.”
After Watsdachances ran second to the French filly Flotilla in the Breeders’ Cup, the bay filly was let down for a couple of months by trainer Chad Brown. On Feb. 18 at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, she had her first of nine workouts in preparation for the $100,000 Appalachian, which is run at a mile on turf. Her final work, a half-mile breeze in 49 seconds, came Saturday morning over the Keeneland Polytrack.
“She really is doing great,” Brown said.
Javier Castellano will be back aboard Watsdachances when she breaks from post 4 against nine other 3-year-old fillies in the Appalachian, which goes as the eighth of nine Thursday races. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the feature set for 4:42.
Watsdachances was just 6-1 in a full field of 14 when she rallied from midpack to finish 1 1/4 lengths behind Flotilla in the Breeders’ Cup, those relatively low odds being a reflection of the strong record she had compiled beforehand. After winning a maiden race in her second start in her native Ireland, Watsdachances made an immediate impact after coming into Brown’s care. She won the P.G. Johnson over the Saratoga turf in her American debut in late August; nearly six weeks later, she captured the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Aqueduct as the favorite in her final prep for the Breeders’ Cup.
Despite the layoff of more than five months, that record clearly makes her the one to beat Thursday in a field replete with other promising turf fillies.
That solid group includes Unbelievable Dream (post 2, Joel Rosario), a New York-bred filly who won a Gulfstream Park turf allowance in her last out; Midnight Ballet (post 3, Gary Stevens), winner of a minor stakes last November in California; and To My Valentine (post 8, Corey Nakatani) and Overheard (post 5, Rosie Napravnik), the respective two-three finishers in the LaCombe Memorial last month at Fair Grounds.
Rounding out the lineup are Rutherford Rd, Eden Prairie, Rusty Slipper, Fadeintoinfinity, and Bethany Belle.
This is the 25th running of the Appalachian. The race dates to 1989, when To the Lighthouse prevailed under Randy Romero for the Christiana Stable and trainer Billy Badgett.
Brown, Castellano, and another Bradley partnership won the 2012 Appalachian with favored Dayatthespa, the speedy chestnut who returned to Keeneland some six months later to win the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.
-Marty McGee (Daily Racing Form)