Bill Cubbedge’s multiple graded stakes winner Molly Morgan shined again under the lights at Churchill Downs with a 2 ¼-length romp over Street Girl in Saturday’s 29th running of the $237,510 Chilukki (Grade II) for fillies and mares.
Corey Lanerie rode the Dale Romans-trained Molly Morgan in 1:36.97 for one mile over a fast track en route to his fourth victory on the day.
The Chilukki was the second Grade II triumph this year at the historic Louisville track for Molly Morgan. In June, the 5-year-old daughter of 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, skimmed the rail to score a 10-1 upset by four lengths in the $216,200 Fleur de Lis Handicap (GII), a prime-time event staged on Stephen Foster Handicap Night.
Molly Morgan won Saturday’s Chilukki in similar fashion. She was unhurried early as Honey Hues led the field of 10 fillies and mares through fractions of :23.34, :46.50 and 1:11.72. Molly Morgan ranged into contention, moved to the inside on the turn for home and kicked clear for the comfortable win.
“She’s just a different horse here,” Lanerie said. “I don’t know if it’s the night time or what but it seems like her best races have come under the lights. This horse runs at a different spot on the rail; she gets really close. When I put her on there she really seemed to accelerate; it was like I pushed the button and she went easy today. I thought she ran great.”
Molly Morgan banked the $140,244 first prize and rewarded her backers with $4.20, $3.20 and $2.40 as the even-money favorite. Street Girl, ridden by Calvin Borel, paid $5.20 and $3.80. Enchanting Lisa, the half-sister to two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan, was another half-length back in third under Robby Albarado and paid $5.60.
Anahauc, Spring in the Air, My Option, Drama Drama, Call Pat, Honey Hues and My Happy Face completed the order of finish.
Molly Morgan, who also won the Grade III Gardenia at Ellis Park this summer, boosted her career record to 26-7-4-6—$662,407.
“She absolutely loves this racetrack and she’s really come around,” said Baldemar Bahena, longtime assistant to Romans who also won the 2004 Chilukki with Halory Leigh. “I think it was a lot easier for her to run here than go out to California (for Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff) and I’m glad it worked out.”
The Chilukki is named in honor of the Bob Baffert-trained filly who won this event at age 3 in 2000 while setting a track record (1:33.57).
Saturday’s 10-race program also included the seventh running of the $60,236 Bet On Sunshine for sprinting 3-year-olds and up. Sharp Sensation, owned by Jim and Susan Hill, rallied in the stretch to win the six-furlong race by a half-length over Nates Mineshaft in 1:10.32. Channing Hill rode the 4-year-old gelding to victory for trainer Reade Baker. The $36,494 winner’s share of the purse boosted his earnings to $405,134 from six wins in 11 starts. He paid $13 to win.
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. ET.
COREY LANERIE, jockey of MOLLY MORGAN (winner) – “She’s just a different horse here. I don’t know if it’s the night time or what, but it seems like her best races have come under the lights. I was a little worried today and was trying to make my way toward the outside because the rail I don’t think has been the place to be. But this horse runs at a different spot on the rail; she gets really close. When I put her on there she really seemed to accelerate; it was like I pushed the button and she went easy today. I thought she ran great.”
BALDEMAR BAHENA, assistant trainer to DALE ROMANS, trainer of MOLLY MORGAN (winner) – “It was a great trip. They left the rail open for her and she took advantage of it. She ran really well. She absolutely loves this racetrack and she’s really come around. I think it was a lot easier for her to run here than go out to California and I’m glad it worked out.”
CALVIN BOREL, jockey on STREET GIRL (second) – “She ran a big race. I think she should have won. The two-horse (Call Pat) stopped right in front of me around the turn and I kind of lost momentum. I got through, bit just wasn’t in time.”
CHARLIE LOPRESTI, trainer of ENCHANTING LISA (third) – “I was really happy for her in her second start on the dirt, just coming out of an ‘a other than’ win. (Jockey) Robby Albarado really liked her – he said she really traveled over it good. We took a shot with her, but now she’s Grade II stakes-placed and that just enhances her value. She’ll be a solid broodmare for us now, and if we run her next year maybe we’ll win one of these races.”
Q: Is there any chance she might come back in the Falls City Handicap (GII) on Thanksgiving Day? “I wouldn’t say ‘never.’ We’ll just see how she comes out of it.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey on ENCHANTING LISA, (third) – “(Trainer) Charlie (LoPresti) really wanted to get her graded (stakes)-placed and she ran great. I hated to see Corey (Lanerie on winner Molly Morgan) get through on the inside, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”
BET ON SUNSHINE QUOTES
CHANNING HILL, jockey of SHARP SENSATION (winner) – “I had a great trip. I had to tap the brakes a little bit going into the turn, but nothing too wild. My horse was all class. I do have to give (trainer) Anne Smith credit for having her horse (Nates Mineshaft) ready. At the top of the lane I wasn’t sure if I was going to reel him in or not. But I’m lucky I had a really class horse that wanted it. (Trainer) Reade (Baker) had him ready to go and honestly I was just a pilot for that guy today. He’s got a ton of ability. The only question mark going in was the dirt, but I’d say he answered that pretty well today.”