Lady Eli Undeniably Superlative
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rating far back early in her first try at 1 ¼ miles, Runnymede-bred Lady Eli shifted wide around the far turn while rolling into high gear and thundered to the finish line unchallenged in the $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1), defeating 13 strong rivals in 1:59.27 on July 4.

The remarkable victory for the Sheep Pond Partners colorbearer drew raves from many quarters including trainer Chad Brown, who said the three-year-old filly “has the most devastating turn of foot I’ve ever worked around.”

With her second career Grade 1 win under her girth following last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf and a winner’s prize of $535,000, Lady Eli becomes Runnymede’s newest millionaire, joining the likes of Awesome Gem and Japanese champion Agnes Digital.

Lady Eli

Brown said the filly’s next major goals will be the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Keeneland and likely the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at the same track. Which races he will use as stepping stones to get there have not been decided, although he mentioned the possibility of the Beverly D. Stakes (G1) at Arlington.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. followed Brown’s plan for the Belmont Oaks to perfection. Although she had drawn post two, Brown wanted Lady Eli safe from trouble and on the outside, and Ortiz gently guided her away from the rail so she would have clear running room. As Lady Zuzu set a fast early pace, Lady Eli rated kindly, waiting for Ortiz to give her the signal.

Once she began making up ground, she quickly ranged up into contention and fanned about five to six wide for the stretch run. She crossed the finish line 2 ¾ lengths in front of Itsonlyactingdad, with Coolmore’s Outstanding another 2 ¾ lengths back in third.

“I had a perfect trip,” Ortiz said. “We expected to have the best horse in the race so that's why we saved ground the first half of the race, but after that, I know nobody noticed us so I just took her out and looked behind, and before the half-mile I knew I had a lot of horse. Nobody put pressure on me and she took off.”

Superlatives started rolling in, praising Lady Eli after the win, which she accomplished in time nearly two seconds faster than colts recorded in the Belmont Derby (G1) on the same program.

“With a breathtaking victory in Saturday’s G1 Belmont Oaks Invitational S., the $160,000 Keeneland April graduate remained perfect in six career trips to the post and enters the conversation as one of the best three-year-old turf fillies in recent memory,” declaredThoroughbred Daily Newsin an alert to subscribers after the race.

Lady Eli “dazzled,” reportedThe Blood-Horse. “Impressive,” “sensational,” “incredible,” “spectacular” are some of the other adjectives used by organizations such as the New York Racing Association and Television Games Network as well as racing professionals and aficionados on social media.

“She's the best horse on turf I've ever trained. I'm happy to show her off to everyone,” Brown said. “The term ‘breathes different air’ gets thrown around a lot when someone has a very good horse, and I've been lucky to have some great turf fillies and mares, but this one ‘breathes different air' for sure.”