Melnyk Racing Stables' homebred Indian Vale, responding well to strong left-handed urging from John Velazquez, edged away from Asi Siempre in the final stages to win the $327,600 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) by 1 1/2 lengths Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The Todd Pletcher trainee Indian Vale completed the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares in 1:49 after pressing pacesetter Fiery Pursuit and putting her head in front on the turn for home. Indian Vale led the pack into the stretch and proved impossible to run down.
The gray mare Asi Siempre emerged as the biggest challenger mid-stretch but couldn't close the gap under Garrett Gomez, settling for second, a neck better than the late closing Kettleoneup with Calvin Borel aboard.
Apple Blossom (gr. I) winner Ermine, the slight 2-1 favorite over Asi Siempre and Indian Vale, finished nearly two lengths farther back in fourth after coming up empty in the stretch run.
Fiery Pursuit, with Edgar Prado in the irons, led through early splits of :23 4/5 and :47 1/5 before Indian Vale took the lead after completing six furlongs in 1:11.
The ultra-consistent Indian Vale atoned for a rare poor effort in her previous start, a fourth-place finish in the Louisville Breeders' Cup (gr. II) May 4 when she caught a sloppy track at Churchill as the 13-10 favorite.
Saturday's victory, worth $199,052, was her seventh in 10 lifetime starts and boosted her earnings to $648,601 for the Canadian Eugene Melnyk, who owns the Ottowa Senators of the National Hockey League. The 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare is undefeated in six starts at the nine-furlong distance.
“She was much better this time out,” said Velazquez. “Last time, she was in a sloppy track and she was bottled the whole race. This time, I helped her a bit with positioning so she could feel the other horses outside of her, and she went right on. She’s good at the distance, but the track helped her more than anything else.”
Sent off as the third choice, Indian Vale paid $7.20, $4.20, and $3.20.
Asi Siempre, second in the Louisville Breeders' Cup, returned $3.40 and $2.80.
Kettleoneup, winner of the Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne in April, was $4.40 to show.
Following Ermine were Rolling Sea, Fiery Pursuit, and Baghdaria, who was eased in the stretch and did not finish. Leah's Secret scratched.