Getting a patented rail-skimming ride from Calvin Borel, Miss Isella won Thursday’s 93rd running of the $169,800 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) by a length over Skylighter on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs.
Miss Isella, a 3-year-old homebred daughter of Silver Charm racing for Domino Stud of Lexington, covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:50.78. The victory, the fourth in 11 starts for Miss Isella, was worth $98,959 and more than doubled her career earnings to $192,743.
The victory gave trainer Ian Wilkes his second career stakes score at Churchill Downs.
Swift Temper, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, led the field of 11 through early fractions of :23.77 and :47.89 in the run down the backstretch as Borel had Miss Isella positioned in mid-pack and next to the rail. Leaving the backstretch, the field began to tighten with Swift Temper clinging to a precarious lead through six furlongs in 1:12.39. Turning for home, Miss Isella was eighth but had a clear shot along the fence that Borel took advantage of to surge to the lead in upper stretch.
Borel, who won the Falls City last year on Kettleoneup, also won the 1996 renewal on Halo America, in 1999 on Silent Eskimo, and in 2003 on Lead Story.
Carrying 116 pounds, Miss Isella returned mutuels of $32.60, $12.60, and $8.20. Skylighter, carrying 115 pounds and Julien Leparoux, returned $5.40 and $3.80 as the second choice, with Tell It as It Is, ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson and carrying 115 pounds, finishing another length back in third and returning $11.40 to show. Swift Temper held on for fourth and was followed in order by Brownie Points, favored Spring Waltz, Tiz To Dream, Copper State, Stop a Train, Devil House, and. Initforthekandy.
Borel has now won the Falls City Handicap five times: Halo America (1996), Silent Eskimo (1999), Lead Story (2003), Kettleoneup (2007) ,and Miss Isella (2008).
“She’s really just been improving," Wilkes said. "She really just turned the corner and got better and better."
Kenneth T. Jones Jr., who died Oct. 30 in North Carolina, owned Domino. Wilkes said that future plans for Miss Isella and the other Domino horses will be determined once Jones' daughters get back from Guam, where the late Domino owner was a prominent businessman.
"I think they’re going to sort out their horses, the farm, and everything. I know she’s nominated to the January sale (Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale from Jan. 12-17), but whether she goes in is another thing. We’ve just got to wait and see what they want.”
Leparoux rode three winners on the card to boost his fall meet-leading total to 54, one fewer than the 23-year-old record established by Pat Day.