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This year’s version of the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap has come up very competitive, and the stakes are high heading into the event on Saturday night at Churchill Downs. A field of nine will compete in the race, which is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Distaff later on in the year. It will go off as race eight as part of a loaded stakes-card filled with action.
The winner of the Fleur de Lis Handicap will receive an automatic position in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid, and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all challenge series race winners that are based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America, or $40,000 if based internationally, if they choose to run in the Breeders’ Cup.
The race lacks a headliner, but the Wayne Catalano-trained Farrell was a close second last time out in a the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. Catalano believes that the home track advantage of Churchill Downs could swing things in his entry’s favor.
“We were so close in the La Troienne,” Catalano said. “I think the Fleur de Lis is a good spot for her. Obviously with the Breeders’ Cup here at Churchill Downs, in our backyard, if we win, we’re guaranteed a spot in the race.”
The full field from the rail out includes: Fuhriously Kissed, Mopotism, Blue Prize, Streamline, Song of Spring, Awestruck, Valadorna, Apologynotaccepted, and Farrell.
#3 Blue Prize – She has performed well in her last two races, which includes a win in the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Stakes at Aqueduct and a solid second last time out in the Grade 3 DuPont Distaff. She has never finished worse than second in three starts at Churchill Downs and won last year’s Grade 2 Fall City Handicap here by 8 1/2 lengths. That race was the same distance as this spot. She could be tough to beat, and the price should be right to take a swing with this classy mare in a wide-open race.
#7 Valadorna – This is one of only two horses in the race with prior Breeders’ Cup experience. As a 2-year-old, Valadorna entered the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies off of just a maiden win and finished second while only losing by 3/4 of a length. She battled injuries off and on for most of her 3-year-old year but came back as a 4-year-old to win the Grade 3 Doubledogdare Stakes last time out at Keeneland by 3/4 of a length. That victory suggests that she could be healthy and ready to make another run at the Breeders’ Cup, beginning with this race.
#2 Mopotism – After knocking heads out at Santa Anita with some of the best fillies and mares in the country, Mopotism gets away from California for her second start over the Churchill Downs surface. She shipped here last year for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, finishing 10th. She also competed in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff last year, where she was a solid fifth and was only beaten 6 1/2 lengths by the eventual winner, Forever Unbridled. Her quest to return to that race begins in the Fleur de Lis.
#9 Farrell – Speed will always be the name of her game! Farrell loves to get out in front right away, and with her early turn of foot, there is usually no denying her the lead. Last time out, she nearly stole the race in the La Troienne when she sped to the lead and was only passed by Salty late in the race to finish second. This outside draw could be perfect for her, as she can see what the other speed in the race is doing, and jockey Channing Hill can decide if he wants to send her to the front or sit off the pace and secure a perfect stalking position. One thing is for sure: we know we will be seeing #9 near the front as they make the first turn.
#5 Song of Spring – She has won two of three races coming into this one, including the Dupont Distaff last time out. This filly is fun to watch, as she likes to drop to the back of the pack and make one big run at the end. Ricardo Santana, Jr. rode her for the first time in the DuPont, and he will ride her again here. Both she and her jockey are on fire lately and have a big chance to keep that going.
#8 Apologynotaccepted – After a solid early campaign in 2017, her season abruptly ended after an injury, and it has taken her a while to round back into form. She struggled in her first two starts this year, but last time out, she showed that she was back to her old self again with a solid second in the Doubledogdare. Sometimes, the older a horse gets, the longer it takes to get back into form, but if her last race was any indication, it looks like she is close to being 100%.
#4 Streamline – This ultra-consistent mare has hit the board in 20 of her 24 starts and is nearing $1 million in earnings. Unfortunately, she has not performed all that well lately, as three of the four times in which she has been off the board happened in her last three starts. This recent string of bad luck came after a solid win at Oaklawn Park in the Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes, so it is hard to figure out what has gone wrong. She could easily rebound here, though, and is always one that you must respect.
#1 Fuhriously Kissed – Since being claimed three starts back, this mare has run two solid races in a row for her new connections. Last time out, she was third in the Grade 3 DuPont Distaff at Pimlico, and two races back, she was also third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap against tough company such as Unbridled Mo and Unique Bella. She can compete at this level as well.
#6 Awestruck – With two consecutive blowout wins under her belt, she will try stakes company for just the second time in this race. Her most recent win came at a mile when she dominated solid optional claiming company here by over 6 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion. There is no doubt that this will be a step up in competition for her, but her speed figures suggest that she could be ready for the challenge.
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