By Brian DiDonato
Accomplished ‘TDN Rising Star‘ Elate (Medaglia d’Oro) gets a bit more ground to work with as she resurfaces in Churchill’s nine-panel, GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff-qualifying GII Fleur de Lis H. Some of the Claiborne Farm and Adele Dischneider homebred’s best work has come at this trip or longer–she annexed the 2017 GI Beldame Invitational S. by 8 1/4 lengths going 1 1/8 miles in 2017, and she’s a two-time graded winner over 1 1/4 miles (2017 GI Alabama S. and 2018 GII Delaware H.). Her career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure was earned when coming up a neck short to nemesis Abel Tasman (Quality Road) in a roughly run renewal of the GI Personal Ensign S. last August. Second to leading older female Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) in the GII Azeri S. at Oaklawn Mar. 16, she was third behind that recent GI Ogden Phipps S. heroine in the GI Apple Blossom H. back in Arkansas over 8 1/2 furlongs Apr. 14. Elate has been off since then, but shows an upbeat string of local works. Her only prior outing here was a runner-up finish in a 2017 optional claimer.
“She’s a horse that wants every bit of 1 1/8 miles,” trainer Bill Mott, who got 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Royal Delta back in form to annex the 2012 running of this race, told the Churchill press department. “Part of the reason why we wanted to run in the [Fleur de Lis] was because of the distance. I think she loves 1 1/8 miles and even up to 1 1/4 miles.”
Elate’s main challenge could come from the in-form She’s a Julie (Elusive Quality). The Steve Asmussen trainee secured the third graded tally of her career in Oaklawn’s GIII Bayakoa S. Feb. 18, and added the GI La Troienne S. on the GI Kentucky Oaks undercard May 3. Blue Prize (Arg) (Pure Prize) was third that day as the favorite. Most of She’s a Julie’s accomplishments have come at 1 1/16 miles, but she was a well-beaten second in last year’s Alabama and sports a 5-3-1-0 record at Churchill.
“I was so proud of her effort in the La Troienne,” said Asmussen, who took this race in 2010 with his own Hall of Famer in Rachel Alexandra. “It was a lot of fun winning that race with such a special filly to our barn and named after my wife.”
Defending Fleur de Lis champ Blue Prize has similar distance preferences to Elate–her four wins at the trip also include a score in last fall’s GI Juddmonte Spinster S. at Keeneland. She was fourth beaten just 1 1/2 lengths in the Distaff here last November, just a head behind Midnight Bisou.