By Claire Novak
An incident at the start and a stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run did nothing to deter Lady Eli from running what trainer Chad Brown called “one of her greatest races to date” July 22 at Saratoga Race Course.
Sheep Pond Partners’ 5-year-old daughter of Divine Park drifted in significantly under Irad Ortiz Jr. while she chased down pacesetter Quidura in the $500,000 Diana Stakes (G1T)—but the stewards ruled for no change to the order of finish, and 123-pound highweight Lady Eli collected her fifth grade 1 victory. Watch Video
“Today was one of her greatest races to date. Maybe her best,” Brown said. “Giving eight pounds to the horse she ran down late in the stretch after breaking through the gate, going a little wide—she just overcame everything. Today she proved she’s one of the all-time greats. It was her determination. Proud she didn’t hang there in the end. She’s always drove past another horse, as long as she can see them.”
Most impacted in the last sixteenth of the 1 1/8-mile test was Juddmonte Farms’ Antonoe, who was checked by Javier Castellano after she tried to close up the rail in the final strides. Antonoe, also trained by Brown, caused some drama of her own at the start, when she broke through the gate before the race. She was pulled up by Castellano and returned to post 2, while Lady Eli also broke open her gate, but remained in the hands of the assistant starter in post 3.
“Never a good sign,” Brown said. “You can probably walk through the grandstand here and talk to the people who actually wager their money every day, and they’ll tell you most of the times that happens they don’t win. She just overcame that much breaking through the gate. A remarkable performance.”
Off to a good official start after a short delay, Lady Eli rated kindly for Ortiz behind Quidura’s fractions of :23.59, :47.51, and 1:11.46. She mounted her bid three wide off the far turn, and charged home through a 1:34.54 mile to secure the win by a head.
The final time was 1:46.17 on a turf course rated firm.
“Fractions were solid enough, but then again, I know this horse on the lead is a real quality horse,” Brown said of Quidura, who carried 115 pounds. “What I liked at that point was that (Lady Eli) was alone back there. I felt confident that Irad could at least give her a clear run in the stretch and that’s all I asked in the paddock. If you just get her clear, I’m confident she’ll get there, and she did.”
Lady Eli, the 4-5 favorite in a field of six, returned $3.90, $2.70, and $2.10. Quidura paid $5.10 and $3.10 at odds of 7-1, while 5-2 Antonoe brought $2.60. Harmonize, Dickinson, and My Impression completed the order of finish.
It was the ninth win from 12 starts for Lady Eli, who has finished no worse than her three seconds. Her earnings now total $2,719,800. She was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay, out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, and was purchased by Jay Hanley for $160,000 from Eddie Woods’ consignment to Keeneland’s April 2014 sale of 2-year-olds in training. Bradley Thoroughbreds pinhooked her for $160,000 from Runnymede’s consignment to the Keeneland September yearling sale.
“Mike Smith told me one time, a good horse gives you good pressure,” Ortiz said. “She gives me the confidence. I had a lot of patience and waited until I felt like I was going to get there, and then I didn’t hesitate. I just showed her the whip. I never hit her. I rode her with confidence.”
For more, visit www.bloodhorse.com