Spelling Again stalked pacesetter Keen Pauline, took the lead leaving the far turn and spurted home to beat Ahh Chocolate by a widening 4 ½ lengths in Saturday’s 30th running of the $200,000 Chilukki (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
Shaun Bridgmohan rode the Brad Cox-trained Spelling Again in 1:35.75 to beat six other fillies and mares in the one-mile stakes event that was run over a fast track. It was the 4-year-old filly’s second stakes win at Churchill Downs this year. In September, Spelling Again won the $100,000 Open Mind which was contested over six furlongs.
Keen Pauline led the field through fractions of :23.47 and 1:46.42 with Spelling Again no more than 1 ½ lengths back of the leader down the backstretch. She moved on the pacesetter on the turn for home, grabbed the lead midway around the bend in 1:11.44 and repelled all challenges with a burst of speed down the stretch to win with ease.
“No shocker that she won but for her to kick away from those kind of fillies the way that she did was a little bit of a shock,” Cox said. “Shaun rode her great. … Shaun is just so quiet and sits quiet on her and lets her do her thing. When he asks her to go, she goes.”
“She’s a very gutsy horse,” Bridgmohan said.
Owned by Donald Giffen’s Seajay Racing LLC, Spelling Again banked the $121,520 first prize and rewarded her backers with $8.60, $5 and $3.20 as the 3-1 third betting choice. Ahh Chocolate, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $7.60 and $5. Gold Medal Dancer was another head back in third under Luis Quinonez and returned $2.80 to show.
Serene Melody, 7-5 favorite Birdatthewire, Ambusher and Keen Pauline completed the order of finish. Shanon Nicole was scratched.
Claimed for $40,000 in May and transferred to Cox, this was Spelling Again’s first graded stakes win and third win in her last four starts. Prior to the Chilukki, Spelling Again was fourth beaten two lengths by Fioretti in the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of American (GII) at Keeneland on Oct. 3.
The Chilukki was the biggest win of 35-year-old Cox’s career. Cox is a Louisville native and graduate of nearby Iroquois High School.
Overall, Spelling Again has won five of 15 starts and $301,426.
Spelling Again is a bay daughter of Awesome Again out of the Alphabet Soup mare Spelling bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge.
Known as the Churchill Downs Distaff from 1996-2004, the Chilukki was renamed in 2005 to honor Stonerside Stable’s graded stakes-winning filly who was trained by Bob Baffert. The daughter of Cherokee Run made four starts at Churchill Downs, all of which were victories. Chilukki won the 2000 edition of this race in what would be her final start with a final time of 1:33.57 – a track record at the time.
Racing at Churchill Downs resumes Sunday with a 10-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. ET.
BRAD COX, trainer of SPELLING AGAIN (winner): “No shocker that she won but for her to kick away from those kind of fillies the way that she did was a little bit of a shock. Shaun [Bridgmohan] rode her great. I saw the seven horse [Keen Pauline] in the post parade warming up and I thought they would send her to the front after seeing her in the post parade. I was thinking she would rip away from there and we could sit right off of her and Shaun did an excellent job stalking that filly. Shaun is just so quiet and sits quiet on her and lets her do her thing. When he asks her to go, she goes. Simple as that.”
Q: Is the Falls City an option? “We’ll see how she comes out of this. It’s probably back a shade quick and I’m not so sure she wants to go that far. She is a high-energy filly but sometimes she doesn’t want to rate. To rate around two turns is a lot different than it is around one turn mile or seven-eighths. We’ll let her tell us.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey of SPELLING AGAIN (winner): “She [Keen Pauline] had intended to go to the lead and obviously my filly has won from off the pace. She just likes to be close. She’s not a one-dimensional horse, which always helps. She runs really well for me, and Brad [Cox] has done a good job training her. That’s why she’s performing as well as she has. She’s a very gutsy horse.”
NEIL HOWARD, trainer of AHH CHOCOLATE (runner-up): “We were very pleased. That was a good race – that was a bonafide Grade II, that’s for sure.”
Q: Any plans in the near future for her? “I don’t know. It may be time to kind of back-down on her a little bit, but she ran well.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR., jockey of AHH CHOCOLATE (runner-up): “We had a great trip. The last couple of times we’ve ridden her in stakes races we’ve had kind of a rough trip. But today we got outside and had a great trip and I thought turning for home we were gonna win. We were just second-best. She’s a 3-year-old and she’s getting better and better.”
LUIS QUINONEZ, jockey of GOLD MEDAL DANCER (third): “She ran good. She ran a nice race. The horses came up to her and she was relaxed. She picked it up and she fought back, but she probably got a little bit tired in the last part. I wanted to hang on at least for second, but just got beat for second. She ran good. She’s honest and she tries every time.”
DALE ROMANS, trainer of BIRDATTHEWIRE (5th as the favorite) and KEEN PAULINE (seventh): “[Birdatthewire] came out of the Oaks a little body-sore and we gave her some time. We might have rushed her to get her here, but I think it’ll set her up good for the Falls City. We got a race in here and we’ve got a lot of racing this winter. The Falls City is definitely our target. That was the thought process of entering her in here.”
COREY LANERIE, jockey of BIRDATTHEWIRE (5th as the favorite): “I thought at the three-eighths pole that they’re going to take my picture. I was sitting on a ton of horse. She was a little keen, but she’s done that in the past and it wasn’t really bothering me. Then when the race picked up she just ran like a horse that had been off for a while. My hope now is that she comes back good and we can get the Falls City.”
To view a pdf file of this news release, click here .