Button Down, who has made tremendous strides since breaking her maiden in belated fashion May 31, figures as a leading candidate in Saturday’s $100,000 Cardinal H. (G3) at Churchill Downs. The nine-furlong grass test has attracted a field of 13 fillies and mares.
Originally campaigned in England by Juddmonte Farms and trainer Lady Cecil, Button Downs was winless in seven starts overseas. Sixth versus allowance foes in her North American debut for trainer Josie Carroll, the four-year-old filly finally broke through in a Woodbine maiden over Polytrack on the final day of May, and her fine form has continued.
A turf allowance winner at Woodbine July 1, Button Down was subsequently second in the $102,000 Flaming Page and the Canadian (G2), and last time was beaten only two lengths by the top Irish filly Curvy in the E.P. Taylor (G1).
Among the leading domestic hopes in the Cardinal is Kiss Moon, a filly’s whose form has run hot and cold this year. Victorious in the Mint Julep H. (G3) over this course in June as well as the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf in September, the David Vance charge has run out of the money in three other starts, although two were against Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Tepin.
Wiener Valkyrie nearly blew up the tote board in her U.S. bow, finishing a half-length second in the October 17 Athenia (G3) at Belmont Park at odds of 66-1. The sophomore will not be as overlooked this time, but will need to prove in the Cardinal that effort was no fluke.
Faufiler was a more highly-regarded entry in the Athenia, but the French import lagged far behind a slow pace and could only rally for eighth. The Group 3-placed stakes winner could show improvement here in her first outing for Graham Motion.
Emotional Kitten has placed in the Goldikova (G2), Gallorette H. (G3), and John C. Mabee (G2) in the past year, but has also suffered recent reversals in softer spots at Parx and Keeneland. Grade 3 veteran Sistas Stroll, on the other hand, could be sitting on a big race second time off the layoff. The Tom Proctor trainee returned from a near three-month break at Keeneland last month and missed in a photo finish against males in an allowance.
Other potential contenders include Street of Gold and Annulment; German Group 3 winner Lacy, unplaced in her first two North American outings in Grade 1 company; and the New York-bred stakes winner Invading Humor, the likely pacesetter in the Cardinal.
The supporting feature on Saturday’s card is the $80,000 Bet on Sunshine, a six-furlong dash for three-year-olds and up. Alsvid, winner of the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3) and Aristides (G3) earlier this year, tops a field that includes Bagg O’Day, Doubledown Again, and Brewing.
(Kiss Moon photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)