May 26, 2024

Lady Eli looks to make amends in Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf

Lady Eli is one of the most heartwarming stories in racing © BENOIT PHOTO

Although favored to earn a first Eclipse Award as champion turf mare regardless of the outcome in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), beloved fan favorite Lady Eli can close the door completely on any would-be claimants to the title in Saturday’s nine-furlong test.

Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) three years ago, Lady Eli fought back from a near-fatal battle with laminitis at ages three and four to continue her general dominance over her peers.

Although pipped by Queen’s Trust by a nose in the Filly & Mare Turf a year ago, Lady Eli has never been better this season. After a season-opening miss in the Jenny Wiley (G1), she’s reeled off consecutive wins in the Gamely (G1), Diana (G1), and Ballston Spa (G1). Lady Eli has never been worse than second in 13 career starts.

Queen’s Trust is back to defend her title, and might be better than her 2017 form suggests having encountered a combination of males and/or soft ground in most of her starts. However, she needed every bit of 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita to spring the upset, and has a furlong less to work with for this renewal.

Lady Eli could face formidable challenges from fellow Chad Brown stablemates Dacita and Grand Jete. Chilean-bred Dacita won the 2016 Diana and the 2017 Beverly D. (G1) in August, but has been a tad unlucky coming out on the wrong side of the photo in three of her past five starts, most recently a second-place finish to War Flag in the Flower Bowl (G1).

Grand Jete, meanwhile, was a rough-trip, dead heat second in the Beverly D. two back, and last time weakened to third in the Flower Bowl after showing speed. She’s generally a stronger threat from off the pace.

Grade/Group 1 winners Senga, Zipessa, Wuheida, Nezwaah, Avenge, and Rhododendron are among the others in a deep, talented cast.