English Affair split horses in late stretch to score a half-length victory over Amboseli in Thursday’s 45th running of the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (Grade III) for fillies and mares on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs.
English Affair, a 4-year-old filly owned and bred by Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm, ran 1 1/8 miles over “yielding” turf in 1:54.26 to collect the first stakes win of her career. Corey Lanerie rode the winner for trainer Rusty Arnold II.
Breaking from post position No. 5 in the field of 10, English Affair raced in mid-pack as 37-1 longshot Unbridled Escape dictated the pace through fractions of :24.79, :50.62 and 1:16.91. As the leader weakened on the far turn, 3-2 favorite I Remember Mama rallied wide with Amboseli just behind her. Lanerie and English Affair patiently waited for a room along the inside hedge and swung out at the top of the stretch when an opening never materialized. I Remember Mama had a half-length advantage with La Manta Gris just to her inside and Amboseli on her right hip. English Affair found room between the tiring La Manta Gris and leader I Remember Mama, and grabbed the lead with a sixteenth of a mile left to run and edged clear for the victory.
“She handled things perfectly today,” said Lanerie, who won four races Thursday. “I was just the passenger. We had a great trip the entire way around the track and when I asked for her best stuff, she dug in and finished really well. I took her back early to settle and waited for a spot to open.”
The triumph was worth $58,900 and increased the Kentucky-bred’s earnings to $197,643. She boasts a record of 3-5-1 in 12 starts. Previously, English Affair was placed second in the $125,000 Dowager (GIII) over 1 ½ miles on turf at Keeneland.
English Affair, who carried 117 pounds Thursday, returned mutuels of $8, $4.80 and $3 as the 3-1 second betting choice. Amboseli, ridden by Florent Geroux at 117 pounds, returned $6.80 and $3.80. Third-place finisher I Remember Mama, under Brian Hernandez Jr. and 118 pounds, paid $2.60 to show.
The order of finish was completed by La Manta Gris, Coachwhip, Coco Channel, Lipstick City, Bonnie Arch, Unbridled Escape and Space Cadet.
English Affair is a daughter of English Channel out of the Colonial Affair mare Lady Melesi.
“She’s a typical English Channel that is getting better with age,” Arnold said. “We’ve run her going a couple of different distances and it just shows her versatility. Today’s race came up and it was the perfect spot to run her in.”
Corey Lanerie, jockey of ENGLISH AFFAIR (winner): “She handled things perfectly today. I was just the passenger. We had a great trip the entire way around the track and when I asked for her best stuff, she dug in and finished really well. I took her back early to settle and waited for a spot to open.”
Rusty Arnold II, trainer of ENGLISH AFFAIR (winner): “She’s a typical English Channel that is getting better with age. We’ve run her going a couple of different distances and it just shows her versatility. Today’s race (at 1 1/8 miles) came up and it was the perfect spot to run her in.”
Florent Geroux, jockey of AMBOSELI (runner-up): “We had a really good trip. My horse tried really hard down the stretch but just couldn’t quite get to the winner.”