Godolphin Racing's Japanese-bred Sundrop, vanned off after her last-place finish in the Emirates Airlines Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) last month, swept past the field in the stretch to win the $175,050 Cardinal Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Churchill Downs turf Saturday.
With Mark Guidry aboard, Sundrop completed the 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares in 1:50, defeating the late-running Delta Princess. Finery was a neck farther back in third, with 3-1 favorite Movie Star finishing fourth.
"She put me where I needed to be," said Guidry. "(In the stretch) I asked her to pick it up just a tad and she went a little bit more. Inside the sixteenth she was just running freely. They did a great job getting her ready today."
Sundrop was scheduled to travel to Jonabell Farm in Lexington on Sunday to launch a career in the breeding shed.
Sundrop, runner-up in the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket in May 2004, won for the first time in four starts in the United States for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. She carried 117 pounds Saturday after being eased at Belmont Park Oct. 29, finishing 37 1/2 lengths behind Intercontinental.
Rick Mettee, Goldolphin's assistant trainer, said that jockey Frankie Dettori felt there was something wrong with Sundrop in the Breeders' Cup and eased her while she was making up ground.
"She was making a nice run in that Breeders' Cup," he said. "At the time it looked like she was going to run on and get fourth or fifth."
Saturday, the 4-year-old daughter of Sunday Silence was kept on the outside under light restraint as she tracked the leaders in sixth through moderate fractions. She inched up while five wide to challenge near the quarter-pole and was in command in upper stretch. Sundrop maintained a clear advantage to the wire under hand urging from Guidry as Delta Princess, ridden by Robby Albarado, rallied belatedly to edge Finery for second.
Humoristic, with Lenatareese pressing, set the early pace while Stage Shy, extremely reluctant to load, raced in third. All of the leaders backed up in the stretch after Humoristic set fractions of :24 1/5, :49 1/5 and 1:13 4/5. Delta Princess, fifth at the head of the stretch, rallied for second over Finery.
Delta Princess suffered her first loss in three stakes races over the Churchill Downs turf. Jockey Robby Albarado said that the stretch-running mare put in a fine late effort, but most of the field was gaining momentum at that point after chasing the slow early pace.
"It's not like they were coming back to me," said Albarado. "They all picked it up, the whole field picked it up. She had to do a little more than normal."
Sundrop won her fourth race in 12 lifetime starts. She was a group III winner in England, taking the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom June 3. The victory, worth $108,531, increased her earnings to $503,404.
The fifth choice in the field of 12, Sundrop paid $17.20, $6.20 and $5. Delta Princess returned $4.80 and $3. Finery's show was $5.
The Brazilian group I winner Movie Star made a big move at the head of the stretch to lead briefly. She lacked an excuse while finishing fourth, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
She was followed by the Chilean-bred Paz Ciudadana, Noisette, Katdogawn (the 121-pound high weight), Stage Shy, Humoristic, Miss Nashwan, Stupendous Miss and Lenatareese.