Multiple Grade I winner Guarana made a triumphant return to racing Thursday at Churchill Downs when she rocketed past pacesetter Sunny Dale at the top of the stretch and defeated Please Flatter Me by 5 ¼ lengths in the $74,691 feature.
Off since a second-place finish in the Grade I Cotillion last September, Guarana ran seven furlongs in 1:22.58. A deluge of rain hit Churchill Downs without warning around 3:45 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the left the main track in a “sloppy” condition for the race one hour later.
Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, Guarana, last year’s Acorn (GI) and Coaching Club American Oaks (GI) winner, rated on the outside of Sunny Dale, who led the field of eight fillies and mares through early splits of :22.67 and :45.21. Guarana was asked for her best run at the quarter pole and quickly took command with ease all the way down the stretch to the wire.
“That’s about as easy as a horse can win,” Gaffalione said. “She’s a super classy filly and incredibly talented.”
The $48,868 winner’s share of the purse increased Guarana’s career earnings to $928,268 from a record of 4-1-0 in five starts. Four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown trains the 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper for Goncalo Torrealba’s Three Chimneys Farm and John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings Inc.
“She is an incredible filly and did everything so easily today,” said Brown’s Churchill Downs assistant trainer Whit Beckman. “There are bigger things down the road for her but it is great to see her get back to the races, especially the way she was able to win as she did today.”
Bettors who backed Guarana to win as an odds-on 1-5 favorite received a $2.40 payout.
Total betting at Churchill Downs on Thursday as $5,733,802.
Racing will resume Friday with a nine-race card at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern). The featured seventh race could produce starters for future races on the road to the Sept. 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Honeybee (GIII) winner Shedaresthedevil is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the 1 1/16-mile allowance for 3-year-old fillies.
Friday’s card will include a $170,608 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot on a Races 4-9 and a $2,445 carryover in the $1 Super Hi-5 on the last race of the day.
Racing from Churchill Downs on Friday will air on FS2 from 1-2:20 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. as part of FOX Sports’ “America’s Day at the Races” coverage. It also will be broadcast on MSG+ from 1-6:30 p.m. and FOX Sports Ohio from 2-6 p.m.