Florida invader Sheer Drama and California-based Grade I winner My Sweet Addiction will find a strong group of Churchill Downs-based stars awaiting them in the starting gate Saturday evening for the 40th running of the $200,000 Fleur De Lis Handicap Presented by Thorntons (Grade II), part of the “Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In Distaff Division” Challenge and one of four stakes events offered during the “Downs After Dark” celebration highlighted by the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap and an on-track appearance by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
The Fleur De Lis, a 1 1/8-mile race on the main track for fillies and mares ages 3 and up, is one of four stakes races on the “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” program that is set to begin with the first of 11 races at 6 p.m. (all times EDT). American Pharoah is scheduled to parade before fans prior to the sixth race. Following that race the Triple Crown winner’s team of owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza will be presented with their engraved Kentucky Derby winner’s trophies.
For the first time, the Fleur De Lis is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Distaff Division” Challenge and the winner of Saturday’s race will earn a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Friday, Oct. 30 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. The winner also will receive a travel stipend for the journey to Keeneland.
The Fleur De Lis and the Stephen Foster Handicap will be part of the NBCSN national telecast of the “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series” on Saturday evening from 8-10 p.m.
A field of nine fillies and mares was entered for the Fleur De Lis and Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia installed trainer David Fawkes’ Sheer Drama and My Sweet Addiction, trained by Marty Jones and the only Grade I stakes winner in the group, as the top choices in the morning line.
Harold Queen’s homebred Sheer Drama is the morning line favorite at 2-1 following a runner-up finish to the now-retired Molly Morgan in the $300,000 La Troienne (GI) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day. Prior to that strong outing the Florida-bred mare was an easy winner over House Rules and Molly Morgan in the Grade II Royal Delta and runner-up to House Rules in the Rampart (GIII), both of which were run at Gulfstream Park.
A half-sister to Queen’s homebred Big Drama, who scored the biggest win of his career in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at Churchill Downs, Sheer Drama has done her best running as a 5-year-old and will break from post seven under regular jockey Joe Bravo. She has a record of 4-7-1 in 15 races with earnings of $430,440. Sheer Drama is 1-3-0 in her four races in 2015 and has been assigned of 120 pounds.
Pamela Ziebarth’s My Sweet Addiction, a 5-year-old homebred daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Tiznow, collected the first stakes victory of her career in her front-running one-length triumph in Santa Anita’s $300,000 Vanity (GI) on May 9. The breakthrough victory under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was her second consecutive win and it improved her career record to 4-2-3 in 19 starts and lifted her earnings to $328,106.
Smith will travel from his Southern California base to ride My Sweet Addiction, who is the 5-2 second choice in Battaglia’s morning line odds. She will carry high weight of 121 pounds and breaks from post eight in the Fleur De Lis.
Members of the home team at Churchill Downs include several fillies and mares who competed in the La Troienne, including Pin Oak Stable’s Gold Medal Dancer, who finished a close third in that race and defeated reigning 3-year-old filly champion Untapable in the Azeri (GII) at Oaklawn Park for trainer Donnie Von Hemel; James B Tafel LLC’s Tiz Windy, winner of the 2014 Indiana Oaks (GII) at Indiana Grand and a close fourth in the La Troienne for Hall of Fame trainer Carl Nafzger; and G. Watts Humphrey’s Frivolous, who finished a disappointing last of nine in the La Troienne but upset Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia in Churchill Downs’ Falls City Handicap (GII) in November.
Others hoping to end up in the G.H. Mumm Winner’s Circle following the Fleur De Lis include America, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and the winner of Aqueduct’s $100,000 Affectionately at Aqueduct for Hall of Famer trainer and all-time Churchill Downs win leader Bill Mott; Thomas Van Meter II and Brad Grady’s Pearl Turn, fourth to Untapable in Oaklawn’s Grade I Apple Blossom; and D.P. Racing’s Yahilwa, winner of Arlington Park’s Sixty Sails (GIII) and runner-up to Stopchargingmaria in the DuPont Distaff (GIII) at Pimlico.
The field for the Fleur De Lis from the rail out (with jockey, weight and morning line odds): America (Joel Rosario, 116, 10-1), Tiz Windy (Julien Leparoux, 116, 8-1), Pearl Turn (Jesus Castanon, 115, 15-1), Yahilwa (James Graham, 117, 15-1), Glorys Last Chance (Ricardo Santana Jr., 113, 30-1), Frivolous (Jon Court, 116, 20-1), Sheer Drama (Bravo, 120, 2-1), My Sweet Addiction (Smith, 121, 5-2) and Gold Medal Dancer (Luis Quinonez, 118, 3-1).