LOUISVILLE, KY – After just missing out on winning the world’s richest race, trainer Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bisou makes her big return to the races in Saturday’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs.
The Fleur de Lis is a 1 1/8-mile dirt event for fillies and mares ages 4 and up. This year’s edition attracted seven runners – six of whom are stakes winners.
Midnight Bisou made her 2020 debut in the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 29 at King Abdulaziz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Taking on a dozen males and fellow female Magic Wand, Midnight Bisou made a daring run up the rail to take second, beaten just 3/4 of a length, to earn a $3.5 million paycheck.
Asmussen gave her plenty of time to unwind from her global travels, but to hear him say it, she is as ready to run as she ever has been.
“Her training before we went to Saudi was just mind-boggling,” Asmussen said. “It’s just like it is now. We still wonder how she’s able to do it so easily and so consistently. Her works at Churchill have been beautiful. … I feel like with what she’s done – traveling to Saudi, taking on older boys and everyone knows the trip she got and knows the circumstances… how do you have an adjective for what she is and what she means to racing? Coming back, the next race isn’t the goal for this year. The Breeders’ Cup is. She is arguably the best horse in the world.”
The winner of the Fleur de Lis will receive an automatic position in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Let’s take a look at the full field:
#1 Go Google Yourself – After finishing a well-beaten eighth in last year’s edition, she won three of her next four starts, including the Locust Grove Stakes (G3) over the local course. She was most recently a distant seventh in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park and should relish returning to a track over which she has a 9-2-3-2 record.
#2 Another Broad – Current owner Farfellow Farm paid $340k for her last November after she finished second in the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (G3) and opted to keep her with trainer Todd Pletcher for her 5-year-old season. She will need to reverse form if she wants to hit the board in this spot; in 6 prior starts against graded stakes company, the Turnback the Alarm was her only in-the-money finish.
#3 Chocolate Kisses – She won two straight to start 2019, including the Honeybee Stakes (G3), to earn a shot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), where she finished eighth. Though winless since that Honeybee last March, she has finished second in both 2020 appearances, including the 1 1/16-mile Shawnee Stakes over the local strip.
#4 Serengeti Empress – The Tom Amoss filly is a dangerous threat in every race, using her sharp gate speed to play “Catch me if you can” with her rivals. She won last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) over this same course and distance and almost upset the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) before finishing third at 10/1 odds.
#5 Midnight Bisou – The class of the field is considered one of the world’s best on dirt, has just two things missing from her sparkling resume: a win at Churchill Downs (she finished third in both prior starts, including the 2018 Kentucky Oaks [G1]) and a victory in the Breeders’ Cup (she was third in the 2018 Distaff [G1] and second last year). Her journey to righting those wrongs starts here.
#6 Red Dane – The Italian-bred mare’s breeding suggests that turf would be her better surface, but 2 of her 3 career wins have come on dirt. She has several hurdles to overcome (including a local record of 6-0-1-0 and not having hit the board in 7 prior stakes starts), but in her corner is jockey Corey Lanerie, who currently sits second among all local riders in wins (21) and earnings ($1.025 million) through June 21.
#7 Motion Emotion – Though her last 2 starts against graded stakes company were defeats by almost 34 lengths combined, her 2 most recent appearances saw her finish second in 1-mile optional claiming events at Oaklawn Park. Though he himself is based in southern California, trainer Richard Baltas has trained her at Churchill Downs since the track reopened with this race as the goal.
The Fleur de Lis serves as race 9 on the Saturday card at Churchill Downs. The track will also host the Stephen Foster Stakes (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Classic, as well as two other graded stakes races. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on July 4 at Belmont Park with the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) (Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile). The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.