It appears the worst is behind undefeated turf star Lady Eli, who continues to make significant strides in her recovery from laminitis in her front feet.
And while her competitive future remains uncertain, her trainer, Chad Brown, said her progress to date has given him hope we haven't seen the last of the filly on the racetrack.
"She's making remarkable progress," Brown said at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 13. "She's really doing as well as she possibly could be right now. We've been given clearance to increase her exercise, and she is walking twice a day around the barn. She's been getting out to the courtyard for grazing. She has great foot growth. She's walking perfectly sound. Her weight and color are terrific, and her attitude is back to her dominant self—protecting her space. I'm really happy with her right now.
"There's no timetable on (putting a saddle on her)," he continued. "Right now we're just trying to take care of the horse and making sure she is physically well just being a horse, and it looks like she is. I look forward to the day we can put a saddle back on her. I'm not sure when or where, but we're hoping that day comes, and so far it's looking good."
Lady Eli, who is currently based at Belmont Park, was diagnosed with laminitis, an often career-ending, and sometimes life-ending, hoof disease, shortly after she won the $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) July 4. While walking back to her barn from the test barn, the 3-year-old Divine Park filly stepped on a nail, which penetrated her left foot.
The nail was extracted, but about a week later, Lady Eli developed laminitis in her right front foot, likely a result of her placing more weight on that hoof. Subsequently, laminitis occurred in her left foot as well.
Owned by Sheep Pond Partners, a partnership that includes Jay Hanley and Sol Kumin, Lady Eli rocked the racing world with brilliant performances in each of her six career starts. After winning her debut last year at Saratoga, she took the Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT).
She won each of her three starts in 2015: the Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, the Wonder Again Stakes, a local prep for the Belmont Oaks, and that most recent victory. She has earned $1,449,800 to date.
Lady Eli was bred in Kentucky by Runnymeade Farm and Catesby Clay out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, who is also the dam of grade III winner Bizzy Caroline. She was purchased by Hanley and his partners for $160,000 from Eddie Woods' consignment at the 2014 Keeneland 2-year-old in training sale, and previously went through the ring for the same price at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale when purchased by Bradley Thoroughbreds from the Runnymeade Farm consignment.
Brown said he is not "surprised" by Lady Eli's progress.
"Relieved is a better word," the trainer said. "She is such a fighter that she wins at everything she does and I'm not surprised she is winning at this."
Brown's emotions during the course of the last six weeks have varied.
"I've been torn between being depressed about it, and thinking, 'why this horse?' to 'let's just be happy right now for what we've had,'" Brown said. "Six races, and six incredible victories, and worldwide respect for this horse on every continent. Someone has contacted me from every continent telling me how much they admire her or how highly they regard her, not just in terms of this crop, but in the history of racing on turf. And this is from people I respect.
"We're lucky just to have her... but it sure would be nice to get her back to racing."