Lady Eli captures the Gamely Stakes over Goodyearforroses

Lady Eli captures the Gamely Stakes over Goodyearforroses

Benoit Photo

Lady Eli Digs in to Win Gamely

Divine Park mare has now earned grade 1 wins at 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Out of her comfort zone up near the pace in the $300,000 Gamely Stakes (G1T) May 27 at Santa Anita Park, Sheep Pond Partners' Lady Eli once again showed her enduring class. 

Video: Gamely S. (G1T)

Racing just off a rapid tempo set by Avenge, Lady Eli put the frontrunner away in the stretch and held off a late charge from Goodyearforroses to win by a half-length.

Avenge set fractions of :23.23, :46.46, and 1:09.69 through six furlongs, but the Chad Brown-trained East Coast invader, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard, never let the speedster get away.

"Chad had spoken to Irad (Ortiz) and told him about getting her in the clear," said Brown's assistant, Cherie DeVaux. "He didn’t want him to take too much hold of her, because he didn’t want her to have too much to do. He was concerned about Avenge getting an easy lead."

Lady Eli moved alongside in the final turn and Avenge was no match in the stretch, but Goodyearforroses—who came into the race undefeated in two starts on the Santa Anita grass—loomed a threat.

But even after being involved in the fast pace, Lady Eli dug in and prevailed to finish off the 1 1/8 miles in 1:45.29.

"I just tried to follow the speed, which was Avenge today," Ortiz said. "I tried to follow as close as possible and it worked out."

The 5-year-old daughter of Divine Park now has a grade 1 win in all four of her racing seasons. During her 2-year-old season she won the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita, at 3 she took the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1T), and at 4 she won the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1T) back at Belmont Park.

Avenge tired to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Goodyearforroses, and was followed home by Mokat and Pretty Girl to complete the order of finish.

Goodyearforroses, who raced just behind the eventual winner in third early, cut Lady Eli's lead in the final furlong from a length to a half-length, but just could not get by. Goodyearforroses ran fifth last time out in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland (where Lady Eli finished second), but previously won the Astra II and Santa Ana (G2T) stakes on the Santa Anita grass this season.

"She ran gamely," said Goodyearforroses' jockey, Corey Nakatani. "She gave me every indication and every chance to do it. She ran a great race. She ran dynamite. It was a big effort for this horse today to try to run down a filly like this."

Bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay, out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, Lady Eli now has eight wins from 11 starts and more than $2.4 million in earnings.

"Because of everything she's been through, it's way more emotional when she runs," DeVaux said of Lady Eli's battle with laminitis in 2015. "This is the most emotional I've ever gotten with any horse. Her tenacity is what makes her great. It was really emotional for me today, because this is the first time I've saddled her."

"The fact that she can come back and do this. ... It's amazing," added co-owner Jay Hanley, who purchased Lady Eli for $160,000 out of the 2014 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale. "It's absolutely amazing. All we can do as owners is try to be good stewards and that's our job. ... This is all gravy to us. We're playing with house money now."