11/02/2012 4:49PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf: French filly Flotilla closes fastest of all

Tom Keyser
Flotilla finishes strong to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

ARCADIA, Ca. – Flotilla was bred in France, trains in France, and before this week, had only raced in France. It has been a wet year in France: All four of Flotilla’s starts there came on courses rated soft or something close to it. Friday, at fast-playing, very firm Santa Anita, the French filly Flotilla sparkled, closing fiercely under Christophe Lemaire to gun down Watsdachances in the final furlong and win the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf by 1 1/4 lengths.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Friday results and video replays]

Her victory gave trainer Mikel Delzangles a Breeders’ Cup winner with his first starter, and jockey Christophe Lemaire – riding the filly for the first time – Breeders’ Cup success in his fourth ride.

“We thought she might be better on fast ground,” said Delzangles, who trains Flotilla for Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani.

Flotilla debuted June 13 and finished sixth in an allowance race at Chantilly, run, of course, on soft turf. When she returned to action July 30 at less prominent Clairefontaine, she handled soft going well enough to beat 10 rivals in another allowance race, after which Delzangles stepped Flotilla into group stakes competition. She closed decently to finish fifth of eight in a September Group 3, and improved to be a somewhat troubled fourth of nine, beaten less than two lengths in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac on the Arc undercard.

“She was a bit unlucky there, and we were very pleased with the way she ran,” Delzangles said.

It was Flotilla’s owner, according to Delzangles, who was keen to come to the Breeders’ Cup following the Boussac. Flotilla arrived her last weekend, had an uneventful week of training, and went out and ran the best race of her life. The filly, Lemaire said, can be a little over-eager, a trait she demonstrated in the crowded Santa Anita saddling enclosure, as she chomped and stomped, eager to get down to business.

On the first turn of the Juvenile Fillies Turf it was much the same, with Flotilla throwing her head a bit as Lemaire attempted to relax her in mid-pack. His task was made more difficult by Tara From the Cape setting a modest pace, going the first half-mile in 47.39 seconds, but by the final bend, Flotilla had found a good rhythm. Lemaire was fortunate to follow Watsdachances as that horse made a strong run toward the lead, and just as Watsdachances overhauled the leaders after straightening for home, Flotilla pounced on her, drawing quickly clear. The winner was timed in 1:34.64 for a mile and paid $24.80 to win. Watsdachances finished a half-length in front of Summer of Fun for third, with Tara from the Cape holding on for fourth.

The winner is by the American sire Mizzen Mast and out of the Sinndar mare Louvain. She was bred by Eric Puerari, Oceanic Bloodstock, and Ariane Gravereaux.

Watsdachances ran well in defeat, getting a good trip under Javier Castellano before being outfinished by the winner,

“Javier gave her every chance to win,” said trainer Chad Brown. “She was just second best today.”

The favored Sky Lantern wound up eighth but never had a chance to run, hemmed in along the inside as jockey Richard Hughes vainly searched for room.

“I was happy with my position on the turn,” said Hughes. “Normally something would open up sometime. Today – nothing.”