Becky Winemiller’s 4-year-old filly Wine Princess concluded her racing career in brilliant style on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs with an authoritative 2 ¾-length win over 8-5 favorite Don’t Tell Sophia in the 98th running of the $165,300 Falls City Handicap (Grade II).
Sent to post as the 4-1 third betting choice in the field of eight fillies and mares, Wine Princess rebounded from a 2 ¼-length loss to Don’t Tell Sophia in the $165,200 Chilukki (GII) on Nov. 2 to display career-best form. The chestnut Kentucky-bred clocked 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in :1:50.12 – the second-fastest time in the last 11 runnings of the race.
Shaun Bridgmohan, who collected his 10th stakes win at Churchill Downs this year and his second career Falls City Handicap, rode the winner for trainer Steve Margolis.
Magic Hour set a leisurely pace of :25.01, :49.30 and 1:13.51 with Wine Princess relaxed in third on the outside, no more than 2 ½ lengths behind the leader. Wine Princess challenged for the lead while approaching the stretch and drew clear from Don’t Tell Sophia, who made a bold five-wide move on the final turn to get close to the eventual winner in mid-stretch.
"I thought when Don’t Tell Sophia came to us, we’d have to fight it out, but she just had another gear today,” Margolis said. “She gave us a hell of a race today. She really did.”
Wine Princess, who carried 117 pounds (five pounds less than the runner-up), paid $10.80, $5 and $2.80. Don’t Tell Sophia, the 122-pound high weight under Joe Rocco Jr., returned 3.40 and $2.20. Flashy American, with Corey Lanerie aboard and 118 pounds, was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third and paid $2.60 as the second-betting choice.
My Option, Magic Hour, Ice Cream Silence, Molly Morgan and Owl Moon completed the order of finish. Fiftyshadesofhay was scratched.
“It was emotional because I’ve ridden her every time she’s run,” Bridgmohan said. “I’ve was around her when she first got here – I worked her first half-mile. She’s run hard every time and it’s gratifying to get one of these for her. She deserves it.”
Wine Princess, a regally-bred daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri that was purchased for $475,000 as a yearling, finished her racing career with five wins, five seconds and one third in 13 starts. The $99,412 Falls City first prize jumped her earnings to $461,561.
Prior to the Chilluki loss, Wine Princess finished behind Emollient and Summer Applause in the $500,000 Spinster (GI) over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland. As a 3-year-old, she won the $101,000 Monmouth Oaks (GIII), which was her biggest career win prior to the Falls City.
Four of her five wins came in seven starts beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.
Now it’s off to the breeding shed at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington for a new career as a broodmare.
“This filly’s been special from the get-go,” Margolis said. “Becky and Jimmy (Winemiller) have been so good. They’ve always said ‘Do what’s best for the filly.’ … For us, it couldn’t have ended on a happier note.”
The Falls City – a reference to the Ohio River falls or rapids that drop some 30 feet just west of downtown Louisville – is one of the four original stakes races that were created by Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark for the inaugural meet in 1875. The race has been run on Thanksgiving Day since 1978.
Racing on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville tradition since 1969. More than 7,000 turkey dinners with all the trimmings – the largest number anywhere in the region – were served.
The Falls City Handicap was the first of four graded stakes events that wind down Churchill Downs’ 25-day Fall Meet. The $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI), headlined by seven-time Grade I-winner Game On Dude against Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) runner-up and Travers (GI) winner Will Take Charge, will be run on “Black Friday.” The $150,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and $150,000-added Golden Rod (GII) highlight Saturday’s ninth annual “Stars of Tomorrow II” program, a 12-race card exclusively for 2-year-olds on closing day.
FALLS CITY HANDICAP QUOTES
STEVE MARGOLIS, trainer of WINE PRINCESS (winner): “I thought when Don’t Tell Sophia came to us, we’d have to fight it out, but she just had another gear today.”
Q: You can’t have had many more gratifying wins than this one. … “This filly’s been special from the get-go. (Owners) Becky and Jimmy (Winemiller) have been so good. They’ve always said ‘Do what’s best for the filly.’ We talked all week about going to Woodbine (for the Dec. 1 Bessarabian Stakes), but we didn’t want to go up in the cold and fight shipping, because she can be a little quirky at times. Everyone has worked so hard on her and she’s been sound. We’re just so thrilled to see this today.”
“Technically, the deal with Hill ‘n’ Dale (Farm) was to run her through the end of the year, but I don’t think there’s anything in December, so we’ll send her over to Hill ‘n’ Dale on Sunday. For us, it couldn’t have ended on a happier note.”
Q: When you were watching the race, you had to be pretty pleased to see her sitting in behind that slow pace … “It was great. We talked about trying not to chase (the pace). We wanted to have something left for the end. Shaun (Bridgmohan) knows the horse so well and I said ‘Just ask her for all she’s got, but you just ride your race and I’m not going to tell you how to do it.’ You know the filly and hopefully she has that kick. The pace was slow, but he said he got her turned-off and got her to settle. She gave us a hell of a race today. She really did.”
Q: How good did you feel when she was coming down the stretch? “We know (Don’t Tell) Sophia’s a great horse, and Flashy American has been good. They had both beat us and we were hoping this could be our race, and turns out it was. “We know the filly’s really coming into herself and it’s a shame (she’s retiring). She’ll be five and she’s a sound horse. It’s bittersweet, but it’s great for Becky and Jimmy to have her go out like this.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on WINE PRINCESS (winner): “It was emotional because I’ve ridden her every time she’s run. I’ve was around her when she first got here – I worked her first half-mile. She’s run hard every time and it’s gratifying to get one of these for her. She deserves it.”
Q: She never runs a bad one and the pace worked out for her … “She settled really good – I couldn’t have asked for anything, obviously. She’s run hard, but she always got out-finished. I think today she put it together and laid it all out there. Steve (Margolis) and his crew have done a phenomenal job getting her to this point.
“It’s very good for those owners – they’re very good owners. They’re great to ride for and they deserve it. Win, lose or draw, they always come back happy and say how hard she tries. They deserve something like this.”
Q: You thought you had it at the head of the stretch in the Chilukki, where she finished second to Don’t Tell Sophia, but given the pace and the trip you had, you had to feel very confident when you got clear today … “I knew the closers were going to come hard. I was just hoping that I could get her turned-off. She’s maturing with age. I’ve got to say she’s definitely matured with age and she laid it all out there. Steve and his crew have done a phenomenal job getting her to settle. I thought she ran hard. She could have packed it in an any time and I thought she re-broke near the finish.”
PHIL SIMS, co-owner and trainer of DON’T TELL SOPHIA (runner-up): “The winner ran a great race. We got beat by a nice horse, so we’re happy.”
Q: The pace just didn’t work out for you … “Yeah, I looked up and they went a half in :49 (.30) and I was hoping for :47 or :48. So it was a slow pace, but that’s the way it goes. She ran well, so we’re happy.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey on DON’T TELL SOPHIA (runner-up): “She ran really good. The pace was slow and didn’t set-up her late run, but for not being anywhere close to her ideal situation she ran really hard. She ran a good race considering how slow the pace turned out to be.”
KENNY McPEEK, trainer of FLASHY AMERICAN (third as the favorite): “The pace didn’t set up for us, and that was my biggest worry. That was my only instruction (to jockey Corey Lanerie) was to worry about the pace in this race. Wine Princess and had class and laid closer (to the pace) than us.”
Q: Will Flashy American be back next year? “Yeah, we’ll point her to Oaklawn or something. But she’ll be back.”