Skip Dickstein

Ahh Chocolate Gets Sweet Spot in Fleur de Lis

Ahh Chocolate has recency and pace edge over 2014 champion Untapable at Churchill.

Ahh Chocolate seems to have everything going for her heading into the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) June 18 at Churchill Downs. The nine-furlong test for fillies and mares 3 and up drew a short field of six, and Ahh Chocolate should be perfectly placed just off the pace.

Ahh Chocolate is coming off a sharp score in the May 20 Allaire Dupont Distaff (gr. III) at Pimlico Race Course, in which she stalked and defeated next-out winner Theogony. The Neil Howard trainee is also proven at Churchill, where she has won two of three starts with one second, including a score in last year’s Falls City Handicap (gr. II). Both the Falls City and Dupont were run at nine furlongs.

Drawing the rail is champion Untapable, the best 3-year-old filly in the land two years ago. Although she remains competitive, Untapable must be considered in decline, having dropped six consecutive decisions since winning the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in 2015.

The last start for the Steve Asmussen-trained runner came in this year’s edition of the Apple Blossom back in April, in which she set soft fractions of :24.06 and :48.10 yet still faltered late at 1 1/16 miles, coming home fourth beaten 3 ½ lengths. Optimists will point to her losing by less than a length in a pair of grade I contests last year and by a neck in the Azeri (gr. II) in March, and also at the fact she is perfect in three starts at Churchill, although those victories came early in her career.  She should again find herself on the lead in the Fleur de Lis, but needs to rediscover her winning touch late.

Brooklynsway can take comfort in having defeated Ahh Chocolate in April at 25-1 at Keeneland in the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) after having finished behind that one in the Esplanade in March. While Ahh Chocolate and I'm a Chatterbox flattered Brooklynsway by winning their next outs, Brooklynsway hasn’t been as fortunate. She came up empty in the La Troienne (gr. I) at Churchill and, after stumbling at the start, was too far back to make an impression in the Arlington Matron (gr. III), checking in third. She hasn’t shown an affinity for nine furlongs thus far either.

Engaginglee will be tested here for class. The closer doesn’t appear on paper to be getting the early speed battle that would set up her late run here, and also must prove she can run with this kind after having finished 6 ½ lengths in arrears of Ahh Chocolate in the Dupont. She managed a distant second to Curalina in the La Troienne and was a non-threatening third in the Inside Information (gr. II) in March. It took her eight cracks to get past her second allowance condition.

Paid Up Subscriber comes in off an allowance optional claiming score at Churchill at a mile, but her stakes tries haven’t been much. She might be keeping Untapable company up front early and is two-for-two at Churchill.

California invader Big Book shows a similar pattern. She comes in off an allowance optional claiming win at Santa Anita but was pitched too high in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I), finishing 9 ¾ lengths in back of Beholder. She ran Stellar Wind to within 4 ¼ lengths in the Torrey Pines (gr. III) last summer, and need to run the race of her life to get her picture taken here.

Entries: Fleur de Lis H. (G2)

Churchill Downs, Saturday, June 18, 2016, Race 6

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 8:30 PM (local)
11Untapable (KY)Florent Geroux120Steven M. Asmussen7/5
22Engaginglee (KY)Robby Albarado116Dale L. Romans6/1
33Paid Up Subscriber (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Santana, Jr.114Albert M. Stall, Jr.8/1
44Ahh Chocolate (KY)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.118Neil J. Howard2/1
55Big Book (CA)Corey J. Lanerie115Tim Yakteen6/1
66Brooklynsway (ON)Julien R. Leparoux117Bernard S. Flint6/1