Even-money choice Arena Elvira passed longshot Afleeting Lady in deep stretch to give trainer Bill Mott his fourth win in the $193,725 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) on Thanksgiving at Churchill Downs.
It was the fourth consecutive victory for the 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper
, who won by a neck in the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares. She completed the distance in 1:50.76 on the fast main track under Junior Alvarado.
Arena Elvira entered the Falls City off a 6 3/4-length romp in the Nov. 4 Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct in her graded stakes debut. This was her sixth victory in eight starts this year. She is owned by Carolyn Wilson.
The dark bay/brown filly was bred in Kentucky by Northwest Farms and is out of the Twining mare Two Item Limit. She was bought for $210,000 at the OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Arena Elvira was never far off the pace, stalking just behind the leaders while Juanita
showed the way under Edgar Prado through moderate splits of :24.40, :49.04, and 1:12.83. Afleeting Lady was just to the outside of the leader with Kent Desormeaux aboard.
Juanita came off the second turn leading narrowly and was still holding on at the top of the lane. But Afleeting Lady took over approaching the eighth-pole, and was now set to duel with Arena Elvira, who had entered the stretch three-wide.
Drifting out slightly but still fighting gamely, 13-1 Afleeting Lady bumped slightly with Arena Elvira before giving way in the final strides. Afleeting Lady settled for second, three lengths in front of It's Tea Time
. Juanita was fourth in a field of eight.
“She was kind of bobbling throughout and not really handling the track," Alvarado said. "When we turned for home, she switched leads and I knew I had plenty of horse, but when she got real close to (Afleeting Lady) she didn’t really want to go by her. I always thought I had enough horse to get there by the wire, though. She’s a nice filly. She ran great last time and ran well again today.”
The four consecutive wins by Arena Elvira have all come at 1 1/8 miles. The first two were at Saratoga in minor stakes this summer. Overall, she improved to 7-3-2 from 12 starts and earnings of $391,426.
Mott last won the Falls City in 2000 withe Bordelaise.
"She’s stepped up," Mott said. "We’ve brought her along very conservatively, never running in graded stakes until the last couple of times. But it’s gotten her there. She’s got her confidence up and she’s handled every challenge.”
The winner paid $4, $3, and $2.80. The $2 exacta (1-9) returned $42.80 and the $2 trifecta (1-9-2) was worth $419.