01/06/2015 12:21PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Lady Eli

Tom Keyser

It’s not as if the Eclipse Award electorate has ignored turf specialists when it comes to the 2-year-old filly division. Since the advent of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008, four of the seven winners of that race have gone on to become finalists for the 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award.

However, there can be a chasm between being an Eclipse Award finalist and being champion, and that has been the case for recent turf specialists in this division. Maram, the winner of the first Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008, lost by 234 votes to that year’s divisional champion, Stardom Bound. Stephanie’s Kitten, the winner of the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf, lost by 246 votes to champion My Miss Aurelia. And in 2013, Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Chriselliam lost by 197 votes to She’s a Tiger.

Chad Brown trained Maram. And Brown trains the undefeated Lady Eli, a 2-year-old filly Eclipse Award finalist off a most impressive score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, her third victory from as many career starts.

“I know that award is typically given to dirt horses,” Brown said over Breeders’ Cup weekend.

But in his very next sentence, Brown said of Lady Eli, “I’d argue that she’s the most talented 2-year-old filly in the country. She deserves to be in that conversation.”

Few would disagree.

Lady Eli showed plenty of potential when she got up in time as the 6-5 favorite at Saratoga in her debut.

“She trained like a 3-year-old all summer, like a horse that’s run 20 times already,” Brown said. “She has that much talent.”

Lady Eli showed an impressive burst of late speed to put her field away and win the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park in her second start. But it was her winning performance in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita that turned everyone’s heads.

Showing the turn of foot on grass that seems to be the hallmark of only the finest European performers, Lady Eli exploded through an opening inside into the stretch, seizing command in a flash. She went on to win decisively under regular jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., somehow managing to gain 2 1/2 lengths into a final quarter-mile that was run in an extremely fast 22.93 seconds. Lady Eli completed the mile in an equally sensational 1:33.41, more than a full second faster than males went in the Juvenile Turf two races earlier.

Lady Eli is the first graded stakes winner by the Chester House sire Divine Park. She is out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur and was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay. She was first sold for $160,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale to Bradley Thoroughbreds. She was then sold for the same sum the following April at the Keeneland sale of 2-year-olds in training to Jay Hanley. Hanley and partner Sol Kumin race as Sheep Pond Partners, the banner under which Lady Eli campaigns.

Lady Eli was one of the most impressive winners at the Breeders’ Cup. That’s why she has a better shot at a championship than any other recent turf specialists in the 2-year-old filly division. But she’s already a big winner to her connections.

“Just so proud of her, that she got to show everyone on a big stage,” Brown said.