Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan made a bold inside move on the final turn to grab the lead under leading jockey Corey Lanerie and rolled to a four-length upset win over Flashy American in Saturday night’s $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by Etihad Airways (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
The Fleur de Lis, which means “flower of the lily” and honors the symbol in the city of Louisville’s flag, was the second of five graded stakes races run under the lights as part of the Louisville, Ky. racetrack’s special “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing program.
Molly Morgan, trained by Dale Romans, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.11.
Ondine broke fastest of all and led the field of six fillies and mares through opening fractions of :23.94, :48.07 and 1:12.74 with 6-5 favorite and 122-pound high weight On Fire Baby in close pursuit. Molly Morgan settled nicely behind the leaders and saved ground before embarking on a gallant rail-skimming move at the top of the stretch. Once in command, she never relinquished and widened her advantage in the stretch for her first stakes triumph.
The victory was worth $132,704 and improved Molly Morgan’s earnings to $368,239 with a record of 21-5-3-5.
Molly Morgan, a 5-year-old daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper out of the Distorted Humor mare Capitulation was bred in Kentucky by Cubbedge, Mike Lauffer and Greg McDonald.
Molly Morgan, who carried 117 pounds, returned $23.40, $7.80 and $3.60 at odds of 10-1 in the field. Flashy American, ridden by Julien Leparoux under 119 pounds, paid $4.80 and $3. Fiftyshadesofhay, the 2-1 second choice with John Velazquez and 121 pounds aboard, was another 2 ½ lengths back in third under and paid $2.80.
Frivolous, On Fire Baby and Ondine completed the order of finish.
Prior to the Fleur de Lis, Molly Morgan finished second to On Fire Baby in the La Troienne (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day, where she finished 2 ¾ lengths behind the winner.
FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP QUOTES
COREY LANERIE, jockey of MOLLY MORGAN (winner) – “Dale (Romans) had her better today than ever, she just showed up today and proved that she could do it. She gets so close to the fence, I knew they wouldn’t stop her. She wasn’t scared of anything so I was going to take my chance. Going into the race on paper, I didn’t know if she was good enough but I was able to save all the ground I could and took my best shot and it worked great. We had a good trip.
DALE ROMANS, trainer of MOLLY MORGAN (winner) – “I think there’s just a late maturing curve on her pedigree, she always showed me she had the talent to be a nice filly and Bill (Cubbedge) stuck with me in what looked like might have been over her head. I just thought she would eventually come around and she did.”
On being late to the Winner’s Circle and missing the win photo – “I was actually at Terry Finley’s daughter’s wedding on my farm in Lexington. I just walked in to the building and had to watch the race on my iPad.”
KENNY McPEEK, trainer of FLASHY AMERICAN (runner-up) – “She’s rock-solid. Corey (Lanerie) did a great job and got the winner got through on the rail. (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) said he thought he had the race won until he saw the eventual winner make it through on the inside. She runs us proud every time. She’s going to have good year ahead of us. She’s still fresh.”
JOHN VELAZQUEZ, rider of FIFTYSHADESOFHAY (third) – “I had a perfect trip. She just kind of went the whole way around there at the same pace. She didn’t stop, but she didn’t pick it up either. We had a clear position on the outside and I waited because I didn’t want to make a premature move. But she just didn’t come up with anything – she just went flat.”
GARY HARTLAGE, trainer of ON FIRE BABY (fifth as the 6-5 favorite) – “I don’t know what happened. Joe (Johnson) said he had more horse at the half-mile pole in the last two races. When he asked her, she gave him three jumps and that was it. I don’t know if she bled or what. I just don’t know what happened. We’ll have to see.”
JOE JOHNSON, jockey on ON FIRE BABY (fifth as the 6-5 favorite) – “She warmed up fine and she broke good. The one (Ondine) was going, so I just sat in behind a little bit and the five (Fiftyshadesofhay) was right on me, so I was comfortable where I was at. At the four-and-a-half I chirped to her a little bit and she got into the bridle and pulled up to the horse. Around the turn she made a little bit of run, but at about the five-sixteenths pole she was done. It just wasn’t her day. She just didn’t want to give me a good Father’s Day present, I guess.”