Stalking favorite Bending Strings disposed of Prospective Saint in upper stretch and won the $169,350 Chilukki Stakes (gr. II) for fillies and mares as she pleased Sunday at Churchill Downs, snapping a nine-race losing streak in the process.
The Chilukki was formerly called the Churchill Downs Distaff.
The John D. Gunther multiple graded stakes winning homebred has been facing top company all year. The slight drop in competition level made Bending Strings the 6-5 choice in the 11-horse field. Wally Dollase's charge had run fourth in the Spinster (gr. I) and Ruffian (gr. I) in her last two races, and was runner-up to Ashado in the Go for Wand (gr. I) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin immediately before that.
"We actually started her at 1 1/8 miles a couple of times and that was a little too far for her," said Dollase. "We were hoping that if she did well at 1 1/8 miles we would go in the Breeders' Cup (Distaff) with her, because that is a 1 1/8 mile race. She just seems to chuck it a little bit at that distance."
Ridden by Robby Albarado, the 4-year-old Bending Strings won for the first time in eight starts this year by 4 1/2 lengths, completing the one-mile distance in 1:35.
"This was a good race and obviously the class always prevails," said Albarado. "She was the class over this bunch. Wally always thought that she was a true miler – and she is."
The Kentucky-bred daughter of American Chance rated nicely in fourth on the outside until Albarado called on her on the turn. She swept past the other front-runners on the outside and engaged Prospective Saint for the lead in upper stretch. Under hand urging, she took control with a furlong to go.
Tempus Fugit, sent off at 38-1, ensured a fast pace (:22 4/5, :45 1/5) while leading Prospective Saint and Journey Fever into the turn. Prospective Saint, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, overtook Tempus Fugit after six furlongs in 1:09 4/5 but failed to hold off Bending Strings. Miss Fortunate, ridden by Larry Melancon, rallied for third, eight lengths behind the winner, with Journey Fever fourth.
Bending Strings last win came Oct. 30, 2004 in the seven-furlong First Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct. The victory was her first in four tries at the one-mile distance. She won for the sixth time in 24 lifetime starts and earned $104,997 Sunday, increasing her career bankroll to $833,385.
She paid $4.60, $3 and $2.40. Prospective Saint returned $7.20 and $6. Miss Fortunate, who was fifth in the Spinster last time, was $5.20 to show.
After Journey Fever, the order of finish was Kristy Beethoven, Beautiful Bets, Savorthetime, Plumlake Lady, Tappin for Gold, My Ro and Tempus Fugit.