John and Glen Sikura’s Serenading drew away from Morena in midstretch to win the the $160,950 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) by three lengths on Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Josie Carroll, Serenading ran the 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track in a light drizzle in 1:50.66. The victory increased Serenading’s earnings to $538,754 with a record of 6-7-2 from 18 starts, 16 of which have come on synthetic surfaces.
Best Lass led the short field of five through fractions of :24.46, :48.60, and 1:13.02 with Serenading tracking in second followed, by Morena and heavily favored Unbridled Belle.
At the midpoint of the far turn, Serenading, Morena, and Unbridled Belle rushed past Best Lass and hit the top of the stretch as a team. Unbridled Belle, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, was the first to check out of the duel and then Serenading began to kick clear at the eighth-pole to secure the victory.
“My mare broke very well, so I took the shot to go to the lead and get the jump on (Unbridled Belle),” Leparoux said. “When I was at the top of the stretch she really had a great turn of foot. She turned away the others and made it very easy for me. She really seemed to take to the dirt very well.”
Serenading returned $11.60 and $6.80. Morena, ridden by Miguel Mena, paid $12 to place and completed a $ 108.80 exacta while finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Unbridled Belle. It was another nine lengths back to Best Lass, with Copper State finishing fifth. There was no show wagering as the field was reduced to five with the race-day scratch of Swift Temper (see related story).
Serenading was bred in Kentucky by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm and N. E. T. P. The 5-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy—Daijin, by Deputy Minister, entered the race off a victory in the Nov. 7 Maple Leaf Stakes on the Woodbine Polytrack. It was the first victory for Carroll at Churchill Downs.
“She’s a lovely, lovely mare,” Carroll said. “I had a lot of confidence that she’d run well on dirt. She had one dirt start in her life at Fair Grounds and she put forth a big performance that day.”
Carroll said she was unsure whether Serenading would be retired or continue with a 6-year-old campaign.