Fioretti, the longest shot in the field of six fillies and mares, scored a 25-1 surprise in Saturday’s sixth running of the $68,817 Roxelana overnight stakes at Churchill Downs with a ¾-length triumph over 3-5 favorite Willow Hills.
Owned by Anthony Braddock’s Two Hearts Farm and Don Janes, Fioretti ran six furlongs in 1:09.67 over a drying-out “fast” track to give jockey Sophie Doyle and trainer Anthony Hamilton Jr. their first North American stakes wins.
Donita’s Ruler and Chortle broke quick from the gate and blazed their way head-and-head through the first quarter mile in :21.11 with Fioretti tracking a length back in third on their outside hips. Fioretti ranged up on the turn and grabbed the lead at the top of the stretch after a half-mile in :44.16.
The 5-year-old mare spurted clear as previously unbeaten Willow Hills, who was positioned in fourth through the early stages, attempted to rally. It was too late.
Fioretti returned her backers with $52.60, $11 and $4.80. Willow Hills, ridden by James Graham, paid $2.40 and $2.10. The Arkansas-bred Pistolpackinpenny, with Jon Court up, was another three lengths back in third and returned $3.
Donita’s Ruler, Tizzy Be Hot and Chortle completed the order of finish. Milam, Toni’s Hollyday and Not Again Nancye were scratched.
Fioretti, who had raced on turf or synthetic surfaces in her five previous starts, banked $42,540 for the win and improved her record to 20-4-6-1—$160,968. It, too, was her first stakes win.
Fioretti, a daughter of Bernardini out of the Cherokee Run mare Move Clickly, was bred in Kentucky by James G. Bell.
The Roxelana is named in honor of William Lanes III’s homebred daughter of Boundary, who won her first four career starts by a combined 29 ¼ lengths, including a 11 ¾-length romp in the La Troienne (GIII) (now known as the Eight Belles). Trained by the late William “Blackie” Huffman, she was the favorite in every start, with the exception of her debut where she was the 5-2 second choice.
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race Father’s Day program that begins at 12:45 p.m. ET. Sunday doubles as Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger with more than 20 activities for children under 12. Kids’ activities include a Mighty Titans obstacle course, Father’s Day crafts, strawberry carnival ride, stick horse races in the historic Churchill Downs Paddock, petting zoo, miniature pony rides, inflatable bounce house, corn hole, face painting, sidewalk chalk art, Kona Ice trucks, video game truck, bubble station, interactive sports games, miniature horse meet and greet, a strolling magician, Carmichael’s Kids Story Time and more.
ANTHONY HAMILTON, JR. trainer of FIORETTI, winner: “This is unbelievable. It’s a lot of fun. This filly has been training really well for us and I thought the turf was going to do it for her. We couldn’t find anything over five-and-a-half [furlongs] and so we were kind of playing around with it and I think we got lucky with the water on the racetrack. She liked the track.
“We were absolutely expecting a good race out of her. We haven’t been getting a lot of credit, understandably, and so we were definitely expecting a good race out of her.
“We’re not sure where we’ll go next, we’ll just have to see what happens and get back and make sure she comes out of this okay. I think seven-eighths to a mile is really where she wants to be if we get the right trip. Every time we stretched her out before, even that mile race at Turfway where we went too fast up front, Sophie [Doyle] did a great job sitting off and pulled the trigger when she needed to.”
SOPHIE DOYLE, jockey of FIORETTI, winner: “To be honest this is pretty emotional because I had my first win here in the States for Larry Demeritte who always promised me that he would get me my first win here and I won two that week for him, so to come back here and racing a bit more and my career this year has really taken off.
“I’m just short of 48 wins now for the year with 50 seconds and 50 thirds, which probably doesn’t seem as much to some of the big boys, but for me who’s just having my first full year of riding in the States, I think it’s quite big for my career back home in England.
“I got a perfect trip, I thought that the eight horse [Willow Hills] was going to go forward and I thought if he does then well just sit back and let him do the work up front, but the pace came from [Chortle], and when [Willow Hills] was laying on the outside, I just kept a good stalking position in on the outside and made [Willow Hills] and James Graham do all the work on the outside. I was just staring at that quarter pole. I knew if I made it down there on the bridle that I would be tough to beat. As soon as I did, I just did what I watch Corey Lanerie do and just stay inside on that inside rail, and she just stayed there and held on really gamely.”
BEN COLEBROOK, trainer of WILLOW HILLS (second as 3-5 favorite): “I’ve always thought she was going to want to go a little farther. Six furlongs was probably a little too sharp for her, especially as fast as they went. We’re not disappointed. There will be plenty of other spots for her.”
JAMES GRAHAM, jockey on WILLOW HILLS (second as 3-5 favorite): “I thought I was going to get there just about the whole way and then, all of the sudden, the other filly takes off. That caught my filly a little flat-footed. I stayed on again, but I just couldn’t quite get there.”