Favored Lady of Venice bulled her way to the front in the stretch and drew off to a four-length victory in the $229,000 Regret (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies battling on the Churchill Downs turf Saturday.
The French-bred Lady of Venice is undefeated in two U.S. starts since transferring to Patrick Biancone's stable from her native country this season. She captured the Appalachian at Keeneland April 23.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, 9-10 choice Lady of Venice bumped repeatedly with runner-up Magnificent Song before taking command. She completed the 1 1/8-mile test on firm going in an excellent time 1:47 1/5.
"She's a lovely filly; really, really good," said Biancone. "She won some stakes in France and we knew she was really good, and she just keeps proving it. We've taken our time with her and are going step by step. Hopefully she likes Churchill and will be back here for the Breeders' Cup."
The Regret victory was the third stakes win at Churchill Downs for the "French Connection" team of Biancone and Leparoux during the 2006 spring meet.
Magnificent Song, the 5-2 second favorite with Garrett Gomez aboard, edged 60-1 shot Precious Kitten and Jose Valdivia Jr., for second by a neck.
Breaking from the rail, Lady of Venice found herself racing in ninth while saving ground as Beau Dare took the 11-horse field through fractions of :22 4/5, :46 1/5 and 1:10 3/5. Beau Dare, at 33-1, continued to lead into the stretch before weakening to fourth.
Lady of Venice, meanwhile, moved up along the inside on the far turn before running out of room at the three-sixteenths pole, where she forced her way between horses while six wide. Once clear of traffic, she proved to be much the best in the duel to the wire.
"When you've got a nice horse, you can go anywhere," said Leparoux. "My filly showed how good she is today, so we'll see where she goes from here. When she found her spot, no one was going to catch her."
May Night ran fifth, followed by Best Mom, Candy Ma'am, Nottawasaga, Fiery Dancer, Red Cherries Spin, and Salty Response.
The winner, a chestnut daughter of Loup Solitaire out of the Forty Niner mare Lacewings, captured two of her three starts in France to begin her career last year and now owns a lifetime mark of 4-1-0 in five tries. She earned $133,462 Saturday for owner Martin S. Schwartz and has banked a total of $238,499.
She paid $3.80, $2.40, and $2.20. Magnificent Song returned $3 and $2.60. Precious Kitten was $8.20 to show.