Gary Tanaka's Eleusis, a 3-year-old filly making her first start in the United States, put away favored Arvada in the final furlong to register her first graded or group win in the $150,000 Long Island Handicap (gr. IIT) for fillies and mares on the Aqueduct turf Saturday.
Eleusis gave notice that she could be a strong force in the filly and mare turf division next year, winning by by 2 1/4 lengths over longshot Literacy, who edged Arvad for second.
Eleusis, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Diesis
, won for the sixth time in seven starts. Her previous six starts were in France, including a victory in a listed race at Chantilly in her most recent on Oct. 1.
The final time for the 1 1/2-mile Long Island was 2:31 2/5 on firm going.
Ridden by Jose Santos, Eleusis was full of vigor while racing on the inside behind pacesetting Belles Lettres and Arvada. Santos gave her some urging on the turn and she angled off the inside path in upper stretch, rallying past a late tiring Belles Lettres. She was soon in control after a tussle with Arvada, the 6-5 choice in the field of seven.
"I started to move her at the five-eighths pole because she's a big filly," Santos said. "She ran the way she was supposed to."
Literacy and Edgar Prado closed well to get past Arvada in the final strides for the runner-up spot. Savedbythelight, Jerry Bailey aboard, closed mildly from the rear to take fourth.
"I had the winner trapped, but when I asked my filly for run, she gave me a little spurt," Velazquez said of Arvada. "I think she got a little tired."
Belles Lettres set a realistic pace for the distance – :24, :50 1/5, 1:16 and 1:40 4/5.
Jean-Claude Rouget trains the winner, who more than doubled her career earnings to $165,801. She has a five-race winning streak.
"This is the continuation of a progression," said Rouget. "Mr. Tanaka bought the filly with this race in mind. She will go back to France. This was a bit of a new experience for her, but she handled the track well and got a good ride. I didn't think Frankel's filly (Arvada) would be easy to beat."
This was only her second start since Aug. 10, when she won the Prix de Pont-Audemer at Deauville.
"She could be a very good mare next year," Rouget said. "She got a late start this year. She started in April and was all backwards. I did a progressive program with her looking toward next year."
Bred by Nancy S. Dillman, Eleusis, a $67,000 Keeneland yearling sale in September 2002, is out of the Spectacular Bid mare Balancing Act.
The 8-5 second choice, Eleusis paid $5.30, $3 and $2.10. Literacy, who is also by the Mill Ridge stallion Diesis, returned $9 and $3.20 and completed a $54 exacta. Arvada, who was ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Bobby Frankel, failed in her quest for a third straight win, paying $2.20 to show.
Noble Stella, Belles Lettres and Briviesca completed the order of finish, while Bounding Charm and Primetimevalentine were scratched.