Race favorite One Caroline battled Miss Isella down the stretch, but did not have enough to hold her off in the $379,700 Louisville Distaff (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Churchill Downs May 1. With her three-quarters of a length victory, Miss Isella handed One Caroline her first career defeat.
The race, which was expected to be a showdown between 2008 champion older female Zenyatta and undefeated grade II winner One Caroline, lost much of its luster when Zenyatta was scratched the morning of the race due to the track condition, which was upgraded to good before the Louisville Distaff.
However, One Caroline, a five-time winner, and Miss Isella provided a thrilling finish as the two gray fillies battled to the wire over the sloppy track. Jockey Calvin Borel, aboard Miss Isella, squeezed through on the inside of the tenacious One Caroline mid-stretch and edged away to a narrow win under left-haded urging. Swift Temper was a distant third, 8 1/4 lengths back.
As she usually does, One Caroline, who is trained by Rusty Arnold, went straight to the front and clicked off fractions of :23.96, :47.65, and 1:11.72 before Miss Isella and Swift Temper began to challenge her. Miss Isella, fourth after a half-mile, moved into contention on the inside.
Borel, Miss Isella’s regular rider, won his second race of the day at Churchill.
"My filly loves this racetrack," said Borel. "She's a totally different filly on this track."
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Miss Isella completed the 1 1/16-mile contest in 1:42.75. She returned $19.20, $4.40, and $3.20. One Caroline, who was sent off at 1-2, paid $2.20 and $2.10, while Swift Temper paid $3.40. The exacta was worth $35.40, and the trifecta returned $131.60.
French Kiss, Unbridled Belle and Unforgotten trailed. Modification also scratched.
Miss Isella won for the fourth time in six starts at Churchill.
"We have a muddy track, and our filly loves the mud," said Wilkes. "Rusty's filly ran good. She's a nice filly. Let's give her all the credit. She did all the work up front, and we had a cozy little trip."
Miss Isella entered the race off a fourth-place finish in the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland April 17. The 4-year-old daughter of Silver Charm races as a homebred for Elaine Jones’ Domino Stud of Lexington, which bred her in Kentucky out of the Last Tycoon mare La Cucina.
In her first attempt at stakes company, Miss Isella won the Fall City Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs last November. With her $235,414 payday in the Louisville Distaff, Miss Isella has earned $438,157 while winning five of 14 lifetime starts.
Miss Isella was offered at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale but failed to meet her reserve when bidding stopped at $60,000.