Classic a better fit for Elate than Distaff

Elate loves a 1 ¼-mile distance and has never been better than she was in the July 13 Delaware Handicap (G2). Fifth entering the far turn, she received her cue from jockey Jose Ortiz and the race was over before the completion of the bend.

Her turn of foot proved sensational as Elate blew by a couple of respectable foes (Escape Clause and Blue Prize) into a clear lead rounding the far turn and Ortiz began easing up his mount about a sixteenth of a mile from the wire. The final winning margin (4 ½ lengths) didn’t illustrate her dominance.

This classy five-year-old mare loves a route of ground, so much so that 1 1/16 miles is too short for her. The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred has dropped all five starts at 1 1/16 miles, including a pair of decisions to Midnight Bisou earlier this season. She’s had some success at 1 1/8 miles, posting a pair of stakes wins including a 1 ½-length triumph over Blue Prize in the June 15 Fleur de Lis (G2), but Elate owns an overall two-for-five record at the distance.

The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro prefers the distance of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), winning three stakes starts at 1 ¼ miles by a combined 13 ¼ lengths. If the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff were held at 1 ¼ miles this fall, Midnight Bisou and the rest of the field would be competing for second.

However, 1 1/8-mile Distaff distance favors Midnight Bisou, who is four-for-four in 2019. The race offers $4 million less than the Classic and looks like a more difficult assignment for Elate given the quality of this year’s projected Classic field.

In the latest Breeders’ Cup Classic rankings, compiled by a panel of 36 Thoroughbred racing media, the top three contenders are:

1 McKinzie (Met Mile runner-up was 12th in last year’s Classic and 0-for-2 at 1 ¼ miles)
2 Thunder Snow (winless from four U.S. starts)
3 Seeking the Soul (winless in stakes races outside of Churchill Downs)

Barring a three-year-old emerging as a legitimate threat over the coming months, Elate won’t have any rivals to fear in the 2019 Classic field. Bill Mott knows how to ship horses to Santa Anita, recording four of his 10 Breeders’ Cup race wins in Southern California, and Elate’s BRIS Speed numbers (104 in Del ‘Cap) are on par with her male opponents.

The Classic is shaping up to be a better fit for Elate than the Distaff.

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How to Bet the 2019 Delaware Handicap

The top-two finishers from the recent Fleur de Lis Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs – Elate and Blue Prize – top a field of nine in Saturday’s lucrative $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G2). The 1 1/4-mile affair attracted some nice fillies and mares, but the race will go through this accomplished duo.

ANOTHER BROAD (#1) (10-1) – Obeah Stakes third draws the rail for trainer Todd Pletcher and will appreciate the added distance in this spot. The Include filly is a cut below the top guns in the affair, but she will save ground throughout beneath jockey Jorge Vergas Jr. The bay is four-for-five on a wet surface, so she moves forward with any moisture on the ground.

GOTHAM GALA (#2) (8-1) – The improving sort was a clear winner of the Obeah most recently in just her second two-turn race on the main oval. The Arnaud Delacour charge is getting good right now and distance shouldn’t pose a problem for the Smart Strike filly. Daniel Centeno rides.

ESCAPE CLAUSE (#3) (5-1) – This speedy sort missed by a nose in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) two prior to prove her class. The Grade-3 winning Manitoba-bred mare might be the one to catch from this post beneath Tyler Baze if the horse to her inside doesn’t break swiftly.

QUEEN NEKIA (#4) (20-1) – Anthony Pecoraro trainee is ambitiously placed following a runner-up finish in a second-level allowance tilt at Laurel Park. The Harlington filly would be a huge shocker.

PROMISE OF SPRING (#5) (12-1) – Steve Margolis trainee has placed in a pair of Grade 3 events this campaign, and the chestnut might appreciate the added ground of this affair. The Kentucky-bred will have to get faster in a hurry to challenge for the top prize in this field, however, but she can pick up a piece late.

BLUE PRIZE (#6) (7-2) – Classy mare from the Ignacio Correas IV barn has superb form coming in for her third run of the season. The Argentine-bred daughter of Pure Prize was a strong second in the Fleur de Lis most recently, and she has been first or second in a fantastic 15 of 19 lifetime performances. Joe Bravo will guide the six-year-old.

ELATE (#7) (7-5) – Bill Mott trainee is the defending champion in the field coming off one of her better performances at Churchill Downs last out. The Medaglia d’Oro mare is two-for-two on this course and is tailor made for the 1 1/4-mile distance. Regular rider Jose Ortiz comes along to guide the robust mare.

VENTE TO GO (#8) (20-1) – Obeah fifth was all out to beat allowance foes going one mile here two races back. The El Padrino filly has never faced this kind and looks to be overmatched.

GOODONEHONEY (#9) (10-1) – Great Notion filly was runner-up in the Obeah and she has flashed nice potential more than one occasion. The Michael Moore trainee was done no favors drawing widest of all in the affair, and she will need marked improvement to be in the mix inside the final furlong here.


Gotham Gala and Escape Clause are the inside speed players, and they will be closely watched by Goodonehoney from the outside. The tempo will be moderate and the majority of the field will be within a few lengths of each other along the back side.

I expect Blue Prize and Joe Bravo to get the jump on favored Elate, setting up a thrilling duel inside the final furlong.


$30 Exacta 6 with 7 = $30
$1 Superfecta 6, 7 with 6, 7 with 1, 2, 5 with all = $36

PHOTO: Elate (c) Coady Photography/Churchill Downs

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