FALL CITY HANDICAP | PURSE: $200,000 | GRADE 2 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/8 MILES
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- It's hard to believe that Bill Mott sent out 12 losers from his first 19 starters at the Churchill Downs fall meet, because it seems like every time the spotlight came on, the Hall of Fame trainer had the winner.
That remarkable pattern continued Thursday at Churchill when Arena Elvira, trained by Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado, was along in the final strides to defeat Afleeting Lady by a neck in the 96th running of the Grade 2, $193,725 Falls City Handicap.
The Falls City gave Mott a 7-for-19 record at the meet, with his previous winners including Royal Delta in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Drosselmeyer in the BC Classic, and Deluxe in the Cardinal Handicap.
"It's been good," Mott said by phone from New York. "It's not much fun when it doesn't work out well, but it's fun when it does work well."
Arena Elvira, sharing top weight of 121 pounds with Super Espresso, was a winner for the fourth straight time and for the seventh time in her last nine starts. She returned $4 as the favorite in a field of eight fillies and mares.
On a sunny and mild Thanksgiving afternoon, Juanita sped to the lead in the 1 1/8-mile Falls City, with Afleeting Lady staying in close pursuit just to her outside. Arena Elvira, just a few lengths behind while saving ground after breaking from post 1, angled out for the drive before finally pushing past Afleeting Lady, a 13-1 shot ridden by Kent Desormeaux, in the last 40 yards. The winning time was 1:50.76 over a fast track.
It's Tea Time, a 15-1 shot, was another three lengths back in third, followed by Juanita, Super Espresso, Brushed by a Star, Secret File, and Riviera Chic. Spring Party and Ravi's Song were early scratches.
Arena Elvira, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly owned by Carolyn Wilson, earned $116,506 with her richest career score, bringing her bankroll to $394,436.
Mott said Arena Elvira probably would have a short rest and likely would race again next year. "We've brought her along conservatively, never running in graded stakes until the last couple of times," he said. "She's got her confidence up and handled every challenge."
The victory was the fourth in the Falls City for Mott, the Hall of Famer who is the all-time wins leader at Churchill with more than 650. His stable earnings for the fall meet are more than $4.1 million.
The $2 exacta (1-9) paid $42.80, the $1 trifecta (1-9-2) paid $209.50, and the dime superfecta (1-9-2-5) returned $140.36.
The final three-day stretch of the 21-day fall meet starts Friday with the 137th running of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap. Post time for the last three days is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.