Perfection: Lady Eli Begins 2015 Strongly
Thursday, July 28, 2016
After finishing last year with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) that was so impressive many proclaimed her the world’s best two-year-old filly, Runnymede-bred Lady Eli has added two stakes wins in 2015 to remain undefeated.

In one of her most striking performances, the three-year-old by Divine Park out of our Sacre Coeur, by Saint Ballado, burst out of the traffic in which she had been bottled up for most of the race to win the $200,000 Wonder Again Stakes by a half-length under a hand ride from Irad Ortiz Jr. on May 31 at Belmont Park.Lady Eli triumphs in the Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont Park

Lady Eli triumphs in the Wonder Again Stakes at Belmont Park

Although the early pace had been slow, the Wonder Again’s final quarter-mile was timed in a brilliant :22.88 and the final furlong in :11.11. Ortiz and trainer Chad Brown both praised Lady Eli for her performance, which also rated kudos from Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who saddled runner-up Heath as well as Puca.

"She's a special filly," Ortiz said. "I just tried to break out of there and be a little closer to the pace because there was no pace in the race. I tried, but I couldn't get clear. I was covered up most of the way, and just when I asked her, she picked it up. She just did it easy. She's the kind of filly when you ask her she takes off no matter where she is. When she got in the clear, she took off. It was impressive."

"There were definitely some anxious moments there," said Brown. "It wasn't really the trip I was envisioning, but she worked it out. She had to overcome a lot today—stretching out in distance, a slow pace, and she was bottled up for most of the way. Additionally, for her being as big as she is, being bottled up like that is pretty challenging. But she got through, and won geared down again.

"It's exciting thinking about five weeks from now," he added, referring to the next goal for Lady Eli, the $1 million Belmont Oaks (G1) at 1 ¼ miles on July 4. "I feel she won with plenty left, and she won't have any problem getting 1 ¼ miles, especially with more pace."

Lady Eli was sent off the 1-5 favorite in the Wonder Again’s field of eight three-year-old fillies who were running on Belmont’s firm inner turf course. Final time after the slow opening quarters of :25.06 and :51.01 was 1:49.94, and Lady Eli banked $120,000 for her owners, Sheep Pond Partners, raising her career earnings to $914,800.

The official chart of the race commented that Lady Eli was "kept on hold, stuck behind rivals and lacking suitable options approaching the quarter pole, idled in the same traffic situation after turning for home, lightly hand urged to maintain interest, espied towards the outside nearing the end of the furlong grounds, angled sharply towards gaining the freedom necessary to launch a rally, did so, outfinished a pair of foes to her inside in the final stages, lightly hand ridden, to prove best."

After watching Lady Eli’s performance, Mott observed: "My horse ran a great race against a champion. She ran well and she did everything right, but that other filly (Lady Eli) was just too much for us at the finish."

In her first race of 2015, Lady Eli romped to an easy win in the Applachian Stakes (G3) on turf at Keeneland Race Course.