Oonagh Maccool and Happy Ticket, two of the brightest stars in the filly and mare division of American racing, square off in Saturday's $300,000-added Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs.
The 2006 renewal of the 1 1/8-mile race is one of six stakes races with total purses of $1.75 million featured on "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" at Churchill Downs. The Fleur de Lis joins Churchill Downs' $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) among four races from around the country that will be televised as part of the first installment of ESPN's "Road to the Breeders' Cup World Championships - Powered by Dodge," which will air from 5 to7 p.m. (all times EDT).
Charles H. Wacker III's Irish-bred Oonagh Maccool hails from the barn of two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. She is the even money favorite for the Fleur de Lis, while Stewart Madison's Louisiana-based Happy Ticket is close behind at 6-5.
The match attracted four others.
Oonagh Maccool has won five of six career starts, but the daughter of Giant's Causeway
is unbeaten since Pletcher moved her from the turf to the dirt three races back. Those victories include the Rampart Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park and a Kentucky Oaks Day romp in the Louisville Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Pletcher's rising star has earned $307,148.
Happy Ticket won the first eight races of her career and made a national splash when she went on the road to win the Ballerina (gr. I) at Saratoga. She then battled two-time champion filly Ashado to the wire in a memorable half-length loss in the Beldame (gr. I) at Belmont Park. Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr.'s 5-year-old daugher of Anet is coming off a pair of narrow losses at Oaklawn Park with Round Pound in the Azeri Breeders' Cup (gr. III) and Spun Sugar in the Apple Blossom (gr. I).
Happy Ticket has a glittering record of 11-4-0 in 16 races and is on the verge of millionaire status with earnings of $977,260. Her only race in which she was worse than second was an 11th place finish in last fall's Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Oonagh Maccool and Happy Ticket, each carrying the top weight assignment of 120 pounds, have drawn alongside each other in posts 1 and 2, respectively, and should never be far from each other's sight.
The Fleur De Lis field also includes the Pletcher-trained La Reason (6-1), Soul Search (12-1), Character Builder (15-1), and Gallant Secret (20-1).$300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:41 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 &Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Oonagh Maccool (IRE), 120, Rafael Bejarano
2. Happy Ticket (LA), 120, Julien R. Leparoux
3. Gallant Secret (KY), 112, William D. Troilo
4. Character Builder (KY), 112, Shaun Bridgmohan
5. La Reason (KY), 114, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Soul Search (KY), 110, Willie Martinez