Afleeting Lady, the older half-sister of multiple Grade I-winner Shackleford, collected her third straight stakes win with a 2 ¼-length triumph over Brushed by a Star in the 97th running of the Grade II, $162,450 Falls City Handicap on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs.
Afleeting Lady, campaigned by John Clay’s Alpha Delta Stables and Richard Santulli, ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:51.25. Joel Rosario rode the winner for trainer Dale Romans.
Joyful Victory was quickest from the gate and led the field of seven fillies and mares through early fractions of :23.68 and :47.62 with Afleeting Lady tracking in second while in the clear to her outside. The winner, who carried 119 pounds, took command with three furlongs to run, shook clear in deep stretch and easily held back a late rally by recent Chilukki (GII) winner Brushed by a Star, who was the starting high weight at 122 pounds.
Afleeting Lady paid $4.60, $3 and $2.40 as the 6-5 favorite. Brushed by a Star, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $4.40 and $2.80. Joyful Victory, who carried Robby Albarado and 119 pounds, was another 3 ¼ lengths back in third and paid $2.40.
Arena Elvira, Maristar, Aint She a Saint and Sea Level Drive completed the order of finish.
Afleeting Lady, who won the Lady’s Secret at Monmouth in September and the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (GIII) at Belmont Park on Oct. 27, banked $98,704 for the win. The 5-year-old mare by Afleet Alex out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee has won seven of 20 starts and $473,526.
For Romans, it was his second Falls City Handicap win. He saddled Halory Leigh to victory in 2004. Meanwhile, Rosario won three races on the Thanksgiving Day card.
Also on the day, Chilukki’s 12-year-old track record of 1:33.57 for one mile fell when Z Thoroughbreds’ Infrattini stopped the teletimer in 1:33.31 during Race 4. The 4-year-old gelding, trained by Paul J. McGee, was ridden by Rosario, who carried 121 pounds.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Friday with a 12-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. EST. The featured event, which goes as Race 11 at 5:35 p.m. EST, is the richest race of the meet: the $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI). Shackleford is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the field of 10 three-year-olds and up. Only three days remain at the 21-day Fall Meet. Closing Day is Sunday.
FALLS CITY HANDICAP QUOTES
Dale Romans, trainer of Afleeting Lady, winner: “She looked comfortable the whole race and I thought she would run big, and she did. I think she’s still improving.
“We’re going to sit down and decide whether we want to go on with her now or retire her. We’ll make a decision in the next few days.”
Q. Afleeting Lady has gotten the family off to a good start this weekend (half-brother Shackleford is 2-1 morning-line favorite for Friday’s Grade I, $400,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare): “Yeah it’s a good start and hopefully it’ll carry over to tomorrow.”
Joel Rosario, jockey on Afleeting Lady, winner: “I had a perfect trip and she had me in a good spot the whole way. I let her do whatever she wanted to do. I was a little worried because I thought she was getting a little tired in the stretch, but she was able to hold it together and keep going.
“Like I said, I let her do what she wanted to do and she put me in the winner’s circle.”
Eddie Kenneally, trainer of Brushed by a Star, runner-up: “She ran really good considering the bad break. The five (Maristar) came over and pretty much killed us leaving there. Our filly was in unknown territory then – she was back behind a bunch of horses, which she never is. But she overcame that. She got a great ride from Corey – he didn’t panic in the early part of the race when he found himself 10 or 12 lengths back off the pace. The pace really wasn’t that fast up in front of us, but she did really well to close into a slow pace and was very game.”
Q: This is the first time she has run since she was purchased and moved to your barn. You must feel very good about the acquisition … “Absolutely. No doubt about it. With a level break, it would have been a very tight finish – I can tell you that.”
Q: What happens with her now? “We take here to Florida and space her races out. This one came out a little quicker than one would like. But now we don’t have to run her in three weeks’ time – we can give her four, five or six if we need. We’ll just pick our spots. There are plenty of races for her. We’ll just decide when we get a little bit closer.”
Corey Lanerie, jockey on Brushed by a Star, runner-up: “I was hoping to be laying third, in a perfect world, right off Joyful Victory and Afleeting Lady. But she came out a little slow and then got bumped a little bit, so then I just had to ride her where I was at and make up a little ground. She ran well. In the last little part, I thought I was getting to her, but she was just a little better than me today.”
Larry Jones, trainer of Joyful Victory, third: “She ran well, but I don’t understand why they were in such a hurry. We were out there settin’ a good pace, and all the sudden they acted like they wanted to start racing. But she hung in tight. She had every reason to chunk it completely and I was pleased with her effort.”
Q: What now? She’ll be back next year? “We definitely are not going to do much that involves the winner (Afleeting Lady). We’ll probably focus on the new race down at Sam Houston ($400,000 Houston Ladies Classic on Jan. 26). We’ll do that and probably go out to Santa Anita for a Grade I, if she’s doing good then. We’ll probably put her up for the summer and then try to get her ready for the Breeders’ Cup.”
Robby Albarado, jockey on Joyful Victory, third:
Q: Was the front-end where you wanted to be with her? “Being on the inside, circumstances dictated that I had to make a decision early. Obviously the decision was that I had to go to the front there, but she was comfortable doing it and was content going down the backside. But at the half-mile pole I looked back and saw those blinkers (worn by Afleeting Lady) and thought, ‘That’s not good.’ With the favorite being there that early and that easy, I knew we had our work cut out for us. But I’ll tell you what, she had every right to concede at the three-eighths pole, but she hung in there and finished third. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to her, she ran a game race.”
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