Jockey Gary Stevens guides Chilukki to victory in Sunday's El Encino Stakes.

Jockey Gary Stevens guides Chilukki to victory in Sunday's El Encino Stakes.

AP Photo/Benoit Photo

Chilukki Turns Tables on Spain, Wins El Encino

From Santa Anita
Ridden by Gary Stevens 1999 two-year-old filly champion Chilukki set leisurely fractions and turned the tables on 3-5 favorite Spain in the $147,000 El Encino Stakes, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Spain, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff at odds of 55-1, had upset 7-10 favorite Chilukki in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes last Dec. 30.

Chilukki took command at once in the grade II El Encino and completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.55, with splits of :24.17, :48.39, 1:11.95 and 1:36.17 for the mile.

"Some people really put some knocks on her last race, but this filly has changed a lot," Stevens said. "I rated her in her last race at Churchill Downs (victory in the one-mile Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap last Nov. 4) and she's a smart filly and she remembered that. Last time she didn't show the same speed and she wasn't as close to the pace, and I guess I kind of panicked a little bit at the half-mile pole. I moved too early. Looking back, if I would have sat on her and waited until the head of the stretch, she might have made a better impression."

Chilukki paid $5.20 as the second choice in the field of four and earned $90,000 for owners Bob and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable. Chilukki has earned $1,161,828 overall. It was the 11th win in 16 career starts for the Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Cherokee Run, who carried 119 pounds.

Spain, ridden by Victor Espinoza under 122 pounds, stalked Chilukki throughout but could not overtake the front-runner. Queenie Belle was third, a half-length behind Spain. Back Seat Babe completed the order of finish, four lengths behind Queenie Belle. Excessively Hot was a late scratch.

(Chart, Equibase)