Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. kisses Lady Eli after her 2017 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes victory at Saratoga Race Course

Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. kisses Lady Eli after her 2017 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes victory at Saratoga Race Course

Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta

Multiple Grade 1 Winner Lady Eli Officially Retired

Daughter of Divine Park will be bred to War Front.

Multiple grade 1 winner Lady Eli has been retired from racing and will be bred to War Front in 2018, owners Sol Kumin and Jay Hanley announced Jan. 16. 

The 6-year-old mare by Divine Park—Sacre Coeur, by Saint Ballado, won 10 times from 14 starts, finishing second in three additional races. She earned $2,959,800 for her career, throughout which she raced exclusively on turf. This season she is a Eclipse Award finalist for champion turf female, with the winner to be announced Jan. 25.

Lady Eli, bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby W. Clay and trained by Chad Brown, became a fan favorite while winning all three of her races as a 2-year-old, including the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T). After three more consecutive victories at 3, her legend grew even more.

Following a stunning victory in the 2015 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T), Lady Eli stepped on a nail walking back to her barn at Belmont Park and developed laminitis, which left her in critical condition. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous, as she made slow, steady progress back from the disease and, 13 months later, ran second in the 2016 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa Stakes (G2T) Aug. 27 at Saratoga Race Course, her first defeat.

Lady Eli snapped right back, however, taking the Flower Bowl Stakes (G1T) in October of 2016 before missing by a nose to Queen's Trust in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T). In 2017 Lady Eli, named after Kumin's wife Elizabeth, won the Gamely Stakes (G1T) at Santa Anita Park and the Diana Stakes (G1T) and Ballston Spa. In the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar, she lost a shoe early on, then clipped heels and sustained cuts and lacerations before she finished seventh, her only off-the-board finish in a brilliant career. 

Lady Eli was originally slated to sell at the 2017 Keeneland November breeding stock sale but was withdrawn from the auction due to the injuries suffered during that Breeders' Cup outing. 

"We have been wrestling with the very difficult decision of whether to race or retire Lady Eli since we scratched her from the Keeneland November sale days after she was injured in the Filly & Mare Turf," Kumin and Hanley said in a joint statement. "As her stewards we—with Chad's guidance at every turn—have tried to shepherd Lady Eli through her racing career with the utmost respect, compassion, and love for her as a living being first, and secondarily as a racehorse. It is in this spirit that we have ultimately chosen to retire Lady Eli from racing and allow her to gracefully—and safely—begin her career as a broodmare.

"We can't begin to put into words how deeply she has affected us, our families, and our friends," the statement continued. "We are all eternally grateful to her for granting us such intimate access to her journey. Similarly, there is no way that we can properly express in this forum our debt of gratitude to Chad, his staff, and all of Lady Eli's caretakers through the years. Lastly, we would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to the legions of Lady Eli supporters and admirers from around the globe."

Kumin and Hanley added Lady Eli will be offered at the 2018 Keeneland November breeding stock sale as part of John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales consignment.