In her first start since a third behind Beholder and Songbird in the Nov. 4 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), the 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song took down seven rivals with a strong late rally in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (G2).
Video: Fleur de Lis H. (G2)
"She's a true racehorse. That's what they're supposed to do," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "Coming off a seven-month layoff, we just had to run her and see where her fitness level was.
"She just works at it every day. She's the kind of horse that works hard. She keeps herself in the game."
Jockey Joel Rosario bided his time with the returning mare, who raced in fifth behind a :24.26 quarter and sixth as a half went in :48.71, with 13-1 shot Apologynotaccepted showing the way. While the frontrunner opened a 1 1/2-length advantage off the turn for home, Forever Unbridled ranged up five-wide with ease and reeled Apologynotaccepted in before kicking clear to a 1 3/4-length score.
"She's a tremendous horse," Rosario said. "I got her settled early and when we went by the half-mile pole, she was moving so easy. I just nudged her a bit and she took off. Dallas got her ready and did a tremendous job with her. To be able to ride a horse with this much class is such a blessing. I can't wait for what's next."
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-old fillies and up was 1:49.94 on a fast track. The 6-5 favorite and 123-pound highweight, Forever Unbridled returned $4.20, $3, and $2.40. Apologynotaccepted held for second, worth $8.20 and $5.40. Carrumba ($3.60) completed the trifecta.
Forever Unbridled picked up an automatic berth to this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff via the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series. The Fleur de Lis was her fifth graded stakes win. From 15 starts, she has a 6-3-4 record, with earnings of $1,711,880. She is out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Lemons Forever, by Lemon Drop Kid .
"We just needed a spot to get started, and this was it," Stewart said. "We'll probably (aim for) one at Saratoga (Race Course), maybe one at Belmont (Park). We'll talk to Mr. Fipke and see what makes sense. He's the breeder, the owner, he's put a lot into it, and he's a really great guy to work for.
"How lucky are we to have such an unbelievable horse like this in our barn? I told Joel to get her settled early and keep her out of trouble. He was barely moving on her and she won easily. We just need to keep her happy and healthy, and we'll have her ready for the Breeders' Cup."