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Wonder Gadot, with jockey John Velazquez aboard, races toward victory during the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, on June 30, 2018.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

It’s been a whirlwind season for Wonder Gadot and trainer Mark Casse.

There have been highs – beating the colts to win the $1-million Queen’s Plate and $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes – some lows – finishing 10th in the US$1.25-million Travers Stakes – and plenty of in-between with nine money finishes in 10 starts.

But the Ontario-bred three-year-old filly is finally where Casse had hoped she’d be, the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

“She’s had a busy year but we’re here and we’re happy,” Casse said. “That’s kind of been my life. I’m happy with where I’m at but it hasn’t been pretty on some occasions.”

Casse’s biggest challenge might be protecting Canada’s 2017 champion two-year-old filly from herself heading into the US$2-million Distaff on Saturday.

“She’s feeling as good as she has,” Casse said. “It’s funny, there was something like 200 photographers out here when she was galloping with the other Breeders’ Cup horses.

“She came by and was leaping in the air and everyone was taking pictures. I turned to one of the reporters and said, ‘Now you see why I run her all the time. This is what happens when she doesn’t run. She gets to feeling so good.' “

That’s encouraging, given Wonder Gadot’s past two races. She was last among 10 horses in the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 25 before finishing third in the Grade 1 US$1-million Cotillion Stakes at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa., on Sept. 22.

Monomoy Girl won the Cotillion but was disqualified to second behind Midnight Bisou for interference. It was her first defeat of the year after five straight victories.

One of those wins came in the 1⅛-mile Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4 by a half-length over Wonder Gadot. The two also squared off in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra on Feb. 17 over 1-1/16 miles at Fairgrounds Race Course in New Orleans with Monomoy Girl taking first and Wonder Gadot third.

But there’s been no prerace hype around the two fillies this time around.

“The thing about the Breeders’ Cup, compared to the Queen’s Plate or Kentucky Derby, there’s so many races to talk about,” Casse said. “If Justify or American Pharoah [past two U.S. Triple Crown winners] were here then there’d be more concentration on one horse.

“Now, there’s no concentration, it’s just a broad spectrum of horses. We’re definitely going in under the radar, no pressure.”

Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown champion bred by Canadian John Gunther, retired in July with an ankle injury. Justify was undefeated (6-0-0) with almost US$3.8-million in earnings.

Wonder Gadot has two wins, four seconds and three thirds this year for more than $1.17 million. She’s made 15 career starts (five wins, four seconds, four thirds) and earned almost $1.5 million.

Casse feels there’s no time like the present for Wonder Gadot to return to the winner’s circle.

“This would be the time,” Casse said. “All the others don’t matter, it’s this one.

“It would not shock me one iota to see Wonder Gadot win. It might shock the rest of the country and world but not me. If she comes with her A-game she can be tough.”

Wonder Gadot is one of five horses in Casse’s Breeders’ Cup stable. Included is Strike Silver, the early 4/1 favourite in the US$1-million Juvenile Turf Sprint on Friday. Canadian-bred Sergei Prokofiev is in the field.

Another is Shamrock Rose, an early 20/1 pick in the US$1-million Filly and Mare Sprint on Saturday. The three-year-old filly is owned by Penny and Manfred Conrad of Wellesley, Ont.

My Gal Betty is another Canadian horse looking to defy the odds. The Roger Attfield-trained two-year-old, an early 20/1 selection, breaks from No. 13 post Friday in the US$1-million Juvenile Filly Turf with Javier Castellano aboard.

But Attfield will be looking for history to repeat itself. In 2011, the last time the Breeders’ Cup was at Churchill Downs, Attfield captured the Filly and Mare Turf with 26/1 long-shot Perfect Shirl.

“I can live with that,” the veteran trainer said with a chuckle.

My Gal Betty has two wins, a second and third in four starts this season for $121,226. She’s coming in off a second-place finish in Grade 1 $250,000 Natalma Stakes turf race Sept. 16 at Woodbine.

Attfield said My Gal Betty has settled into her new surroundings, an encouraging sign given the spectacle that is the Breeders’ Cup. That’s not always the case with two-year-olds.

But Attfield can’t say the same about his horse’s post position.

“It creates quite a few challenges, actually,” he said. “The problem is when you have small turf courses like Churchill does … you’re starting a full field of horses very very close to the first turn and you’ve got two options.

“One is use your horse quite a bit earlier in the race to get a good position on that first turn. Or tuck back and get in behind and then, of course, you’ve got a lot of running to do to get through and around horses.”

Attfield, 78, has enjoyed a decorated racing career in Canada.

He’s won a record-tying eight Queen’s Plates, seven Breeders’ Stakes and the Prince of Wales Stakes on five occasions. Eight times Canada’s top trainer, Attfield is a member of both the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.

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