Lady Eli Caps Storybook Return
Saturday, October 8, 2016

Just a year ago, Runnymede-bred Lady Eli was battling for her life against a formidable foe, laminitis.

On October 8, in one of the most remarkable and inspiring comebacks in racing, the four-year-old filly ran her way into the winner’s circle at Belmont Park, prevailing in the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) to collect her third career Grade 1 victory and a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita Park on November 5.

"I wasn't concerned that was she wasn't going to be the same, based on her training," declared trainer Chad Brown while reflecting on Lady Eli’s return after laminitis, an often fatal disease. "To my eye, this filly has been training as good as ever."

Lady Eli proved Brown right. After rating third behind by Godolphin’s pacesetter Sentiero Italia, she ranged into contention around the far turn under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and soon drew even with the leader. Within a few strides, she was in front and crossed the finish line three-quarters of a length in front, stopping the clock in a strong 1:59.85 for the 1 ¼ miles on turf rated firm despite showers.

Another Brown trainee, Sea Calisi, who won the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) in August, finished third, another 1 ¼ lengths father back. 

Belmont fans cheered loudly as Lady Eli strode into the winner’s circle accompanied by her owners Sol Kumin and Jay Hanley of Sheep Pond Partners. 

"It's not easy (to get a Belmont ovation)," noted Brown, who from the time Lady Eli was a juvenile recognized her as one of the most promising fillies who had ever entered his barn. "At Belmont, this has been my home course the last few years, but I never heard have an ovation like that going back to the winner's circle."

Brown added that he believes Lady Eli is "better than ever." Even her narrow runner-up effort to Strike Charmer in the Ballston Spa Stakes (G2) at Saratoga on August 27 in her first race in over a year yielded a career best speed figure, he observed. Behind her in that race was Grade 1 winner Miss Temple City, who would go on to defeat males in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on October 8.

Since Lady Eli won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in 2014, Brown is extra upbeat about her return to that track for the Filly & Mare Turf. 

"It'll be her third race off the layoff and she has a mile-and-a-quarter race under her belt now. She has a very good chance of getting the firm turf that she loves out at Santa Anita. She has a win out there already; although they have a new turf course, I'm sure it's similar. If anything else, she's comfortable with the environment and shipping out there, so I'm excited to bring her into the Breeders' Cup.

"There were a lot of different scenarios, some extremely scary, and the best case was we'd be back heading to the Breeders' Cup race as one of the favorites, and here we are. It couldn't happen to a more deserving horse, for her to overcome all this," he added. "It takes such a rare horse to overcome what she has and to make it all the way back to center stage at the Breeders' Cup. I think she's one of the all-time great turf mares, I really believe that."

By Runnymede-bred Divine Park and out of another Runnymede-bred, the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, Lady Eli is a half sister to the farm’s multiple graded stakes winner Bizzy Caroline, now a member of the broodmare band.

Going into the Breeders’ Cup, Lady Eli has won seven of eight career starts and has earned $1,829,800.