It took a while for Sheep Pond Partners’ Lady Eli to find room in the $200,000 Wonder Again Stakes, but she did just in time to remain undefeated, besting 21-1 longshot Heath by a half-length in the 1 1/8-mile turf test May 31 at Belmont Park.
Stuck inside through most of the Wonder Again, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) winner was pinned behind horses at the quarter pole and into the stretch, found room to the outside late, and rallied past dueling Heath and third-place finisher Pine Needles in the final moments.
“I was covered up most of the way, and just when I asked her, she picked it up and I got clear, and she just did it easy,” winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said. “That filly is the kind of filly, when you ask her, she takes off no matter where she is. When she got in the clear, she took off. It was impressive.”
Off at 1-5 odds, the daughter of Divine Park trained by Chad Brown hit the wire at 1:49.94 on a turf course rated firm after Pine Needles set plodding fractions of :25.06, :51.10, and 1:15.95 through six furlongs, while Lady Eli sat in sixth, four lengths back.
“There were definitely some anxious moments there,” said Brown, who indicated the filly will point to the $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) July 4. “It wasn’t really the trip I was envisioning, but she worked it out and ended the weekend on a good note. She had to overcome a lot today—stretching out in distance, a slow pace, and she was bottled up for most of the way.”
The winner paid $2.40, $2.20, and $2.10 across the board. Heath delivered $7.90 and $4.70, while Pine Needles brought $3.20 to show.
Lady Eli, bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay from the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, has a perfect 5-for-5 record and $914,800 in earnings. After breaking her maiden in her debut at Saratoga Race Course in August, she won the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont in September before her Breeders’ Cup score. In her 3-year-old debut, Lady Eli claimed the Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland April 12.
Written by: Jeremy Balan of the Blood-Horse
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