FALLS CITY HANDICAP | PURSE: $162,450 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES
Afleeting Lady built a three-race win streak and gave trainer Dale Romans his 19th graded stakes score of the season when she powered to victory in the $162,450 Falls City Handicap Nov. 22 at Churchill Downs.
The 5-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex , favored at 6-5, won by 2 1/4 lengths while completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.25 under a 119-pound impost including jockey Joel Rosario. Bred in Kentucky by James M. Lauffer and W. D. Cubbedge out of the Unbridled mare Oatsee, she is a half-sister to 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford, who is to make his final start Nov. 23 in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare.
In the Falls City, Afleeting Lady was off alertly from her outside post in the field of seven and raced third heading into the clubhouse turn. She quickly passed contender Arena Elvira and assumed a stalking position one length behind the frontrunning Joyful Victory, as that one showed the way with a quarter in :23.68 and a half in :47.62.
"I had a perfect trip and she had me in a good spot the whole way," Rosario said. "I let her do whatever she wanted to do. I was a little worried because I thought she was getting a little tired in the stretch, but she was able to hold it together and keep going."
Moving under her own power approaching the final turn, Afleeting Lady assumed command after completing three-quarters in 1:12.18. She carried the momentum of her bold outside bid into the stretch and increased to a 3 1/2-length advantage. Brushed by a Star, winner of the Nov. 3 Chilukki Stakes by a head over Joyful Victory and starting highweight under 122 pounds, cut into that margin a little while closing from the back of the pack, but ran out of ground as the winner held sway. Joyful Victory was 3 1/4 lengths farther back in third with Arena Elvira, Maristar, Aint She a Saint, and Sea Level Drive completing the order of finish.
"I was hoping to be laying third, in a perfect world, right off Joyful Victory and Afleeting Lady," jockey Corey Lanerie said of his ride aboard the runner-up. "But she came out a little slow and then got bumped a little bit, so then I just had to ride her where I was at and make up a little ground. She ran well. In the last little part, I thought I was getting to (Afleeting Lady), but she was just a little better than me today."
Trainer Eddie Kenneally, for whom Brushed by a Star was making her first start, said his new contender is headed south for the winter.
"We'll take her to Florida and space her races out," he said. "This one came out a little quicker than one would like. But now we don't have to run her in three weeks' time -- we can give her four, five or six if we need. We'll just pick our spots. There are plenty of races for her. We'll just decide when we get a little bit closer."
Kenneally said he was pleased with the effort of Brushed by a Star, who sold for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale. In the Falls City, the 4-year-old Eddington filly started for new owner Unlimited Equine (Tom Berry) after racing in the Chilukki for trainer Grant Forster for former owners Team Forster.
"She ran really good considering the bad break," Kenneally remarked. "[Maristar] came over and pretty much killed us leaving there. Our filly was in unknown territory then -- she was back behind a bunch of horses, which she never is. But she overcame that. She got a great ride from Corey -- he didn't panic in the early part of the race when he found himself 10 or 12 lengths back off the pace. The pace really wasn't that fast up in front of us, but she did really well to close into a slow pace and was very game."
Trainer Larry Jones said future plans for third-place finisher Joyful Victory, a graded-stakes-winning daughter of Tapit, include a potential start in the $400,000 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston on Jan. 26.
"She had every reason to chuck it completely and I was pleased with her effort," he remarked. "We'll probably focus on the new race down at Sam Houston; we'll do that and probably go out to Santa Anita for a grade I, if she's doing good then. We'll probably put her up for the summer and then try to get her ready for the Breeders' Cup."
The Falls City victory was a second in the race for Romans, who took it in 2004 with Halory Leigh. Afleeting Lady came into the race off back-to-back wins in the Oct. 27 Turnback the Alarm Handicap and the Sept. 3 Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Lady's Secret was her first stakes score and the Turnback the Alarm was her first in graded company.
"She looked comfortable the whole race and I thought she would run big, and she did," Romans said. "I think she's still improving. We're going to sit down and decide whether we want to go on with her now or retire her. We'll make a decision in the next few days."
Now with a 7-4-2 record from 20 starts, Afleeting Lady has earned $473,526 for Alpha Delta Stables and Richard Santulli. She rewarded her backers with $4.60, $3, and $2.40 while Brushed by a Star paid $4.40 and $2.80 and Joyful Victory returned $2.40.