10/31/2016 2:00PM

After long road back, Lady Eli ready for Act 2

Barbara D. Livingston
Lady Eli, shown winning the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, will be a favorite in the BC Filly and Mare Turf on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – For most of the year, trainer Chad Brown has been too busy moving forward to take time to look back. But as interest increased in Lady Eli’s remarkable return to Grade 1 form after her battle with life-threatening laminitis, Brown has begun thinking about where his filly is and where she’s been.

At this time last year, Lady Eli was on a farm in Kentucky getting some paddock time while on the upswing from laminitis. The illness arose after she stepped on a nail while walking back to her barn following a victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks on July 4, 2015.

On Saturday, she will be one of the favorites to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf against some of the best turf runners in the world.

“It’s been hard to stop and really comprehend how remarkable it is that she’s come back from laminitis to this level – which is extremely rare – because we just keep moving forward with her,” Brown said Sunday at Belmont Park. “I have thought a lot about it this week. It was just a big deal to graduate her to standing in ice, and the first time we walked her down the shed row, that was amazing.”

Brown said he recently found a video of Lady Eli he took for her owners on the first day she went to the track at Palm Meadows last winter.

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“I started looking through them this week as they asked me for information,” Brown said, referring to NBC Sports, which is scheduled to air a feature on Lady Eli during its Breeders’ Cup broadcast. “I finally did sit down and say, ‘Wow, I just can’t believe where she’s at now and where she was.' She’s just a remarkable horse.”

Lady Eli, who has won seven of eight career starts, reminded Brown just how good she is with a stellar five-furlong workout Sunday. Though the time of 1:03.17 won’t wow anybody, the manner in which it was done was impressive. Irad Ortiz Jr., her regular jockey who has worked her the past several weeks, said Sunday’s move reminded him of Lady Eli pre-laminitis.

“For me, since she’s come back, today is the day she looked the closest to what she was before,” Ortiz said. “I’m very happy that she worked like that.”

Ortiz said that in some of her previous workouts, when Lady Eli would approach the wire, “she would be getting in, turning her head. Today, she was strong, and she just kept going after the wire and did everything right.”

Added Brown: “As good as I’ve seen her breeze maybe ever. She was very, very strong this morning and throughout her work and came back as though she hadn’t even worked. She’s an amazing horse. That work was outstanding.”

Lady Eli was scheduled to have a walk day Monday and then ship to Southern California on Tuesday for the Breeders’ Cup. It was two years ago that Lady Eli first flashed her brilliance on the big stage, winning the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita.

“It will be the biggest race of her career,” Brown said. “I’m excited for our team, the owners, and I’m really excited for her that she’s going to have her moment and go back to Santa Anita because she earned it.”

Lady Eli may also have earned another year in training. Though she is cataloged for the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, co-owner Sol Kumin said Monday that if healthy, there’s a good chance Lady Eli will be withdrawn and would race next year. Kumin said he, co-owner Jay Hanley and Brown will discuss it.

“If she’s healthy, my guess is she’ll run again next year,” Kumin said.

Brown also will send out Sea Calisi, the Beverly D. Stakes winner, who finished second to Lady Eli in the Flower Bowl. She worked in company with Lady Eli as the two were together throughout the move.

“She got a lot out of that race, and she should move forward,” Brown said.

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