LOUISVILLE, KY – Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s homebred Elate proved to be too tough on Saturday, overcoming slow fractions and a short field to power her way home to victory in the $250,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs.
The Fleur de Lis is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Elate receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Distaff at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, November 2.
Breaking from post 3 under Jose Ortiz as the 4/5 favorite, Elate was a step slow into stride and soon settled along the rail in fourth while Skeptic poked along through opening fractions of :25.02, :49.70, and 1:13.85. Heading into the far turn, She’s a Julie began making her bid for the lead along the outside of the pacesetter, but the defending champion Blue Prize and jockey Javier Castellano soon posed a serious threat while running three-wide.
At the top of the stretch, it appeared to be a two-horse race, but Ortiz waited until the right moment before tipping Elate out and unleashing her on the front pair. Rallying strongly down the middle of the lane, Elate overtook her foes near the 1/16 pole, then drew off late for the win. The Bill Mott trainee crossed with a 1 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:50.33 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“It was a very good race,” Ortiz said. “I saw Javier had a lot of horse with Blue Prize, so I didn’t want to make a premature move. Once she saw the clear, she just cruised home.”
Caught late, Blue Prize ultimately headed She’s a Julie for second, but the rest of the field was nowhere near as close. Go Google Yourself was 7 1/4 lengths back in fourth, while Auspicious Babe was 3 1/4 lengths behind her in fifth. After getting passed at the top of the stretch, Skeptic folded up and stopped running before completing the order of finish.
Elate’s win was her first since taking the Delaware Handicap (G2) in July of 2018 and improved her overall record to 15-6-5-2. The 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, stretching out to 9 furlongs for the first time this year, increased her lifetime earnings mark to $1,698,775.
“Jose got the perfect rail trip, and once he straightened her out in the lane, she came running late,” Mott said. “We thought the added distance makes a bit of difference with her and we like to have a goal to shoot for at the end of the year with the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. If she belongs, that’s a race to definitely shoot for.”
Elate returned $3.80 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.10 to show. Blue Prize brought back $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show, while She’s a Julie paid $2.20 to show.