Though this could be called the year of the female in thoroughbred racing, Ladies' Day at the Breeders' Cup Friday is lacking in star power.
With unbeaten mare Zenyatta putting her 13-0 record on the line against males on Saturday and dominant filly Rachel Alexandra bowing out of the Breeders' Cup and done for the year, lesser known ladies will be left to chase the Cup's seven-figure purses.
After the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon opens the day, Friday's other five races belong to the females, with the $2 million Ladies' Classic the headliner.
While the absence of defending champion Zenyatta will leave the Ladies' Classic a lot less classic, it should leave it a lot more competitive.
The connections of her would-be competitors are not exactly upset at the absence of marquee names.
"If you're going to run in a race like this, you're certainly happy to see an undefeated filly go elsewhere," said trainer Josie Carroll, whose Careless Jewel is the 2-1 second choice in the race formerly known as the Distaff.
"It breaks my heart that Zenyatta is not in the race," joked Marty Wygod, owner of Ladies Classic contender Life is Sweet, who has fruitlessly chased her stablemate Zenyatta all year.
Careless Jewel, a gray 3-year-old, has used her front-running style under jockey Robert Landry to win five straight races, including the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in August. She's likely to go straight to the lead Friday if she can get out of the No. 1 post, which Carroll expects she can.
"She'll have to jump out of there," Carroll said. "She has enough tactical speed, we're not concerned about that."
The filly has already benefited from absent girls running against boys. She was fortunate enough to miss fellow 3-year-old Rachel Alexandra _ who ran against males and won three times _ all year, and now she has been able to dodge Zenyatta.
Asked if she would like to face Zenyatta, Carroll said: "Maybe next year when she's a 4-year-old."
Careless Jewel could see the pace pressed by 9-5 morning-line favorite Music Note, who ran third in last year's Ladies Classic. The 4-year-old filly from Godolphin is coming off Grade 1 wins in the Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park and the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga. She has won big races with both early leads and late rallies.
"She can lay anywhere," said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
Another Godolphin entry, Cocoa Beach, was second in last year's Ladies' Classic but hasn't won a major stakes in nearly a year. She's 8-1 on Friday's morning line.
Also at 8-1, Britain-bred Proviso will try to give Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel his seventh career Breeders' Cup victory.
Frankel has been running his stable by phone while away with an undisclosed illness for much of the year.
He has the day's biggest morning-line favorite Friday, the 8-5 Ventura, who is the returning champion in the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint.
Ventura has raced just once since April and will be facing the filly that beat her then in the Vinery Madison Stakes: Informed Decision.
Ventura and regular rider Garrett Gomez beat the boys and earned Breeders' Cup favorite status in the Woodbine mile in September.
She'll return to seven furlongs when she defends in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Frankel also has Britain-bred Visit in Friday's $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, where she'll take on early favorite Forever Together.
Blind Luck is the favorite among a dozen 2-year-olds in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies.
British trainer Aidan O'Brien, whose Rip Van Winkle is the prime challenger to Zenyatta in the male Classic, saddles Lillie Langtry, the 3-1 early favorite in Friday's $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf.