A well-matched group of nine distaffers will travel 1 1/8 miles over Churchill Downs’ main track during Saturday evening’s “Downs After Dark” card in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2).
The contest, which is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series and offers an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), attracted some talented runners, including Mopotism, Streamline, Song of Spring, Valadorna and Farrell.
FARRELL is a filly for the course, boasting a 3-1-1 mark from eight career starts on Churchill’s dirt. The Wayne Catalano-trained four-year-old captured the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) as a juvenile and led nearly all the way home in the La Troienne Stakes (G1) last out before being caught on the wire. The dark bay daughter of Malibu Moon is seeking a return to the winner’s circle here, having last visited that spot after taking the Pippin Stakes at Oaklawn Park on January 13. Channing Hill has the call.
“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.”
Trainer Neil Howard saddles SONG OF SPRING in her third straight graded try. The Spring at Last filly rallied from near the back of the Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in April to be third on the line, then showed up at Pimlico last out to take the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) by a half-length, also from off-the-pace. The four-year-old miss brings Ricardo Santana Jr., aboard for the Allaire duPont Distaff, along for the ride.
MOPOTISM earned her first graded score gutting out a head victory in the La Canada Stakes (G2) in mid-January at Santa Anita Park. Since then, the Doug O’Neill trainee has finished second in the Santa Maria Stakes (G2), third in the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) and seventh in the grassy Gamely Stakes (G1). This return to the main track could see the Uncle Mo four-year-old also return to the winner’s circle. Regular jockey Mario Gutierrez will be aboard.
VALADORNA suffered the first off-the-board finish of her career when running sixth while making her four-year-old bow on January 28 in the Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston. Prior to that, the Mark Casse charge captured the Tiffany Lass Stakes to close out her sophomore season, was third in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and just missed by three parts of a length in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The bay daughter of Curlin finally earned her first graded credit when taking the Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) last out at Keeneland on April 20. Brian Hernandez Jr. was in the irons for that score and retains the mount.
STREAMLINE has spent half of her career competing at Oaklawn Park, but the six-year-old mare also traveled to Churchill Downs on four different occasions. Those produced a third-place run in last year’s La Troienne as well as a second in the 2016 Falls City Handicap (G2). Trained by Brian Williamson, the dark bay daughter of Straight Line was unable to do better than sixth in the La Troienne last out on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, but could rebound here with Chris Landeros taking back the mount.
Also with a chance in the Fleur de Lis on Saturday is the Rusty Arnold-trained AWESTRUCK. The Tapit four-year-old finished fourth in the Indiana Oaks (G3) last year in her sole stakes attempt to date, but brings a two-race win streak, scoring by a total of 11 1/2 lengths, into this one. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be holding the reins for the first time.
APOLOGYNOTACCEPTED will try to turn the tables on Valadorna following a close second in the Doubledogdare. The Fusaichi Pegasus seven-year-old set the pace in that 8 1/2-furlong affair before being caught on the wire under returning jockey Julien Leparoux.
FUHRIOUSLY KISSED and BLUE PRIZE complete the Fleur de Lis field. The former brings a pair of placings in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) and Allaire duPont Distaff into this spot, while the latter ran second in the Allaire duPont Distaff after capturing the Top Flight Invitational Stakes at Aqueduct.
Two races after the Fleur de Lis, 13 sophomores fillies will line up on the turf course at Churchill Downs for the $100,000 Regret Stakes (G3) going 1 1/8 miles.
ROMANTIC MOMENT is two-for-two on grass thus far from four career starts. The Shug McGaughey pupil broke her maiden going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on February 19 and then scored a front-running victory in an April 26 allowance over Keeneland’s yielding turf. Jose Ortiz was aboard for that last win and stays in the saddle on Saturday.
STAVE is also making her stakes bow in this spot for trainer Larry Jones. The Ghostzapper filly broke her maiden by 6 3/4 lengths on April 20 at Keeneland and captured an allowance over course and distance most recently on May 19. Gabriel Saez will get a leg up here.