Celebrity chef Bobby Flay hopes for a Thanksgiving Day feast at Churchill Downs when his 4-year-old filly Super Espresso faces nine rivals in the 96th running of the $175,000-added Falls City Handicap (Grade II), the centerpiece of the annual holiday program at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
The Falls City, which was won last year by Dundalk 5 LLC’s Dundalk Dust, is scheduled to be the 11th event on Thursday’s 12-race holiday program with a post time of 4:24 p.m. (all times EST). Post time for the first race on Thanksgiving Day is 11:30 a.m.
The Falls City is one of four stakes races created in 1875 by Churchill Downs founder Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark for the inaugural meet of the track then known as the Louisville Jockey Club. Clark’s original stakes schedule included the Kentucky Derby on Monday, the Kentucky Oaks on Wednesday, the Falls City on Thursday and the Clark Handicap on the Saturday’s closing-day.
The Falls City will be the second consecutive start on the main track beneath Churchill Downs’ historic Twin Spires for Super Espresso. In her most recent start the daughter of Medaglia D’Oro ran seventh to Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI) on Nov. 4. A $1.1 million Keeneland September yearling purchase, Super Espresso captured the Allaire DuPont Distaff (GIII) at Pimlico prior to competing in a string of five straight Grade I events leading up to the Falls City.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the 2005 Falls City with Indian Vale, Super Espresso will break from post eight under jockey Javier Castellano as the race’s 121-pound co-highweight.
Flay is seeking his first victory in a Churchill Downs stakes race, although has does own a major stakes win at the Louisville track. His 2-year-old filly More Than Ready won last year’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (GII) over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course, and his 3-year-old filly Her Smile ran third to Musical Romance in the $1 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) at the Louisville track on Nov. 4.
Also slated to carry121 pounds in Thursday’s Falls City is Carolyn Wilson’s Arena Elvira, who sports a three-race winning streak highlighted by a 6 ¾-length victory in her most recent outing in Aqueduct’s Turnback the Alarm Handicap (GIII). She is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs who previously won the Falls City with Donut’s Pride in 1985, Feasibility Study in ’97 and its 2000 running with Bordelaise (ARG).
Arena Elvira drew the rail post for the Falls City and is scheduled to be ridden by Junior Alvarado, but Mott’s New York-based filly might not make the trip to Louisville. The 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper was cross-entered in the Go for Wand (GII) at Aqueduct, which will be run on Friday.
The field for the Falls City, from the rail out, is as follows: Arena Elvira (Alvarado, 121 pounds), It’s Tea Time (Manny Cruz, 116), Riviera Chic (Jesus Castanon, 115), Spring Party (Ben Creed, 114), Juanita (Edgar Prado, 116), Brushed by a Star (Brian Hernandez Jr., 111), Secret File (Julien Leparoux, 115), Super Espresso (Castellano, 121), Afleeting Lady (Kent Desormeaux, 114) and Ravi’s Song (Corey Lanerie, 117).