Elaine Jones’ Miss Isella squeezed through a narrow opening on the rail under Calvin Borel in the upper stretch and then fought off a challenge from Swift Temper to win Saturday’s 35th running of the $221,600 Fleur De Lis Handicap (Grade II) by three-quarters of a length at Churchill Downs.
Distinctive Dixie and Jesus Castanon set the pace in the race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up with fractions of :24.24, :48.18 and 1:12.07 with Santa Teresita stalking to her outside under Aaron Gryder and Borel a little further back tucked along the rail.
Distinctive Dixie and Santa Teresita hit the top of the stretch as a team as Borel looked for an opening at the rail. At the three-sixteenths pole, Miss Isella hit the rail as she brushed past Distinctive Dixie and burst to a narrow advantage with Swift Temper looming on the outside.
Miss Isella, who carried top weight of 122 pounds, five more than Swift Temper under Garrett Gomez, drew off in the final yards to complete the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.59 over a fast track.
Miss Isella returned $5.40, $3.20 and $2.20 as the favorite in the field of nine. Swift Temper paid $6.80 and $4.20, finishing 4 ½ lengths ahead of Temple Street, who rallied to finish third under Julien Leparoux and pay $5.60 to show. Santa Teresita, Distinctive Dixie, Copper State, Kiss With a Twist, French Kiss and Unforgotten completed the field in order.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Miss Isella is a 4-year-old daughter of 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm out of the Last Tycoon mare La Cucina. Now 5-for-7 at Churchill Downs and 6-for-15 overall, Miss Isella increased her career earnings to $568,629 with the $131,896 winner’s check.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP
CALVIN BOREL, jockey of MISS ISELLA (winner)
“She came off the pace pretty good today. When I got up into the hole, Distinctive Dixie kind of came back down and shut me off. She brushed my filly a little bit, but they had a lot of room when I drove her in there. I put a little pressure on her, but it wasn’t that bad. It looked bad because it threw her into the air and off stride, but that’s the name of the game.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of MISS ISELLA (winner)
“She’s game. She loves it and loves that part of it. She’s a game filly. You’ve just got to love her. She loves what she does.”
Q: What goes through your mind when Calvin Borel goes through the rail like that?
“Nothing really. When Calvin (Borel) goes through I think he’s got enough horse. If he doesn’t have enough horse, he’s not going in there. If he only gets a little way in, he’s in trouble. If has enough horse to get through there I’m all for it.”
Q: It’s been a nice two days for owner Elaine Jones (she won a first level allowance on Friday with 3-year-old colt Guam Typhoon). . .
“Yeah. Her (Miss Isella) half-brother (Guam Typhoon) won yesterday. I’m very pleased and excited for her.”
Q: What might be next?
“I’ve got no plans yet but I do want to take her to Saratoga and take a shot at some Grade Is.”
GARRETT GOMEZ, rider of SWIFT TEMPER (runner-up)
“It happens all the time around here. I don’t know. It’s very frustrating to ride a tactical smart race and and you gave up ground to be in a garden spot and then see him (Borel) get through. To come off the fence and just let him through – and it’s not just once or twice, it’s like all the time. It takes a lot of heart out of your horse. It’s difficult to swallow when it keeps happening over and over.”
Q: Your mare ran a good race . . .
“She ran a lot better today. The other day (in the Louisville Distaff) she just looked dull and I was telling him (trainer Dale Romans) after the race that getting just two weeks off after the Sixty Sails probably took a lot out of her. She’s not very big, but she runs very hard and she was just kind of a dull horse in that race.”
JESUS CASTANON, rider of DISTINCTIVE DIXIE (fifth and involved in bumping with Miss Isella in upper stretch)
“I was running out of horse in that spot and I thought he’d (Borel) do that business he always does. My horse was trying to drift inside and at the same time he kind of went through. I was trying to save my position as I was running out of horse, then he got through. We made some contact, but he got through. His filly was much the best in this race.”