Indian Vale, ridden by John Velazquez, rallied from just off the pace and drew away to score an easy victory in Churchill Downs' Thanksgiving feature, the 90th running of the $338,700 grade II Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and up. A holiday crowd of 11,189 looked on as Indian Vale won for the fifth time in six career starts and paid $6, $4 and $2.80 as the favorite in the field of 10. Pampered Princess, with Eddie Castro aboard, stalked the early leaders throughout but was no match for the winner in the stretch and paid $4 and $3. Miss Fortunate rallied late under Larry Melancon to finish third and paid $3.60. Indian Vale, a 3-year-old daughter of A.P Indy owned by Melynk Racing Stables Inc. and trained by Todd Pletcher, covered the 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:50.25. She earned $209,994 for the win to more than double her career earnings total to $364,674. Bred in Ontario, Canada by Eugene Melnyk, the filly has won five of six starts.Her only defeat came in a fifth-place finish in the Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park in a race in which she was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr., who had made a one-day return to riding for charity. The Ontario-bred filly rebounded from that setback to cruise to a victory over older rivals in the grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct, a win that preceded her Thanksgiving Day win over a more accomplished group of her elders in the Falls City. "It's a shame that she kind of got a late start to the season, because I think she's probably one of the best -- if not the best -- 3-year-old fillies around," said Pletcher. "But she made up ground in a hurry and to beat older mares of the caliber that she did today in only her sixth lifetime start, and now going five-for-six, she's obviously something special." "I think if she matures a little more and she gets a little more serious about things she needs to do, she'll be all right," said Velazquez, who has ridden Indian Vale to four of her five wins. "It was a good test for her today because I wanted to rate her. I wanted to see how she'd do being behind another horse, and she just didn't really mind." Flying Glitter was first out of the starting gate and led the field through fractions of :23.49 for the opening quarter, :47.04 for the half-mile, and 1:11.32 for three-quarters. Despite the moderate pace, Flying Glitter had no response when Velazquez asked Indian Vale and the eventual winner easily moved past her on the far turn. Castro had positioned Pampered Princes three lengths behind the leaders and launched her bid at the head of the stretch, but the winner of Keeneland's grade I Spinster Stakes could gain no ground on the winner, although she was easily second best. Indian Vale carried 115 pounds, eight fewer than Pampered Princess, and trainer Martin Wolfson thought the difference in weight was a factor in the final margin.
"She was giving weight to that filly (Indian Vale) and that filly, I think, proved that she can be a great one," said Wolfson. "I think to have to give eight pounds to a filly of that ability, that's a lot to ask and we just shipped in on Tuesday. I was real proud of her." Pletcher said that Indian Vale would likely get some rest before she embarks on 2006 campaign that he hopes will see her end up back at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship. The Falls City was the final race in the careers of runner-up Pampered Princess and third-place finisher Miss Fortunate. Both mares will be retired to the breeding shed. The win by Indian Vale was the third Churchill Downs stakes victory of the year for Pletcher, who won the Alysheba on Kentucky Oaks Day with Limehouse and the Three Chimneys Juvenile on the Kentucky Derby Day with Half Ours. It was Pletcher's ninth career stakes victory at Churchill Downs. Velasquez, who teamed with Pletcher to win the 2004 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) with Ashado, enjoyed his tenth stakes victory at the track. La Reason finished fourth in the Falls City, and was followed by Kristy Beethoven, Journey Fever, Rahys' Appeal, Flying Glitter, Bending Strings and Joint Aspiration. Winning Season and Cotopaxi were scratched from the race.(Chart, Equibase)