Miss Isella took a hard jolt from Distinctive Dixie when squeezing through a small opening at the top of the lane, then had the wherewithal to outduel Swift Temper in deep stretch to capture the $222,600 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) June 13 at Churchill Downs.
In typical fearless fashion, Calvin Borel guided favored Miss Isella close to the rail in the nine-furlong Fluer de Lis, and when they tried to squeeze through a narrow crack just beyond the quarter-pole, they were greeted with a bump from Distinctive Dixie and Jesus Castanon.
The blow caused Miss Isella to hit the rail. But Miss Isella never wavered, and when she finally made her way through the tight quarters, she moved to the front. Miss Isella was all out to hold off Swift Temper, who came four-wide into the stretch under Garrett Gomez but was turned away by three-quarters of length.
“She came off the pace pretty good today," Borel said. "When I got up into the hole, Distinctive Dixie kind of came back down and shut me off. She brushed my filly a little bit, but they had a lot of room when I drove her in there. I put a little pressure on her, but it wasn’t that bad. It looked bad because it threw her into the air and off stride, but that’s the name of the game.”
It was the third graded stakes victory since November for 4-year-old Miss Isella, a daughter of Silver Charm. She entered the race off an upset victory over One Caroline in the May 1 Louisville Distaff (gr. II). Borel hugged the rail in that contest as well.
The final time was 1:49.59 on a fast track. Swift Temper settled for second, 4 1/2 lengths better than third-place Temple Street. Santa Teresita was fourth.
Pacesetter Distinctive Dixie posted fractions of :24.24, :48.18, and 1:12.07. Santa Teresita tracked in second, while Miss Isella and Swift Temper were just behind those two in the early going.
A homebred of Domino Stud of Lexington, Miss Isella is trained by Ian Wilkes. She won for the sixth time in 15 starts and has earned $568,631. The gray/roan filly, who is out of the Last Tycoon mare La Cucina, is 5-for-7 in her career at Churchill.
“She’s game. She loves it and loves that part of it," Wilkes said. "She’s a game filly. You’ve just got to love her. She loves what she does.
“I’ve got no plans yet but I do want to take her to Saratoga and take a shot at some grade Is.”
The winner paid $5.40, $3.20, and $2.20. The exacta (3-8) returned $31.80 and the trifecta (3-8-6) was $185.40.