She dropped two decisions to division-leading Midnight Bisou earlier in the year, but Elate joined that rival as an automatic qualifier for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) when earning a popular victory in the $250,000 Fleur de Lis (G2) at Churchill Downs on Saturday night.
The 9-10 favorite in a field of six fillies and mares, Elate wore down Grade 1-winning rivals Blue Prize and She’s a Julie in the final furlong to win by 1 1/2 lengths under Jose Ortiz.
The Fleur de Lis was a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Race for the Distaff in November.
Saving ground in third through fractions of :25.02, :49.70, and 1:13.85, Elate had to wait for Blue Prize, who had raced alongside her down the backside, to make a bid for the lead before Ortiz was able shift the five-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro outside for run.
In the stretch, with Blue Prize and She’s a Julie battling for the lead, Elate moved up outside that pair and relished the nine furlongs best in a time of 1:50.33 over a fast track. Blue Prize, the 2018 Fleur de Lis and Spinster (G1) winner, finished second by a head over recent La Troienne (G1) heroine She’s a Julie.
A homebred racing for Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, Elate paid $3.80.
This was the first victory of the season for Elate, who had run second in the Azeri (G2) and third in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park to Midnight Bisou, who qualified for the Distaff winning the Ogden Phipps (G1) last week. Both races were at 1 1/16 miles, and Elate has tended to relish longer distances.
“She’s one of our favorites,” trainer Bill Mott said. “It seems to take time for her to come around every time we bring her back.”
Elate needed time to develop into one of the better three-year-old fillies of 2017, but eventually earned decisive victories in the Alabama (G1) and Beldame (G1). However, she was only fourth in that season’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar as the favorite.
Not seen again until July 2018, Elate easily captured the 10-furlong Delaware H. (G2) in her 2018 debut, but missed the Breeders’ Cup due to infirmities after losing a close one to champion Abel Tasman in the Personal Ensign (G1) last August.
“There are two or three races we’d like to make, but obviously we want to save enough for [the Distaff],” Mott said.
Bred in Kentucky, Elate is out of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Cheery. Her record now stands at 16-5-3, $1,698,775.