11/22/2012 5:13PM

Churchill Downs: Afleeting Lady coasts home in Falls City

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Afleeting Lady opened an unassailable lead turning for home before coasting to victory Thursday in what probably was her career finale in the 97th running of the Grade 2, $162,450 Falls City Handicap, the traditional Thanksgiving Day feature at Churchill.

Ridden by Joel Rosario, Afleeting Lady put away front-running Joyful Victory passing the quarter pole of the 1 1/8-mile Falls City, then finished easily clear of a mild bid from the 122-pound highweight, Brushed by a Star, to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Carrying 119 pounds, Afleeting Lady returned $4.60 as favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares after finishing in 1:51.25.

In terrific autumn weather, and over a fast track, Joyful Victory went in fractions in 23.68 seconds, 47.62, and 1:12.18 while closely pressed from the outside by Afleeting Lady. Down the stretch, only Brushed by a Star was close, as she finished another 3 1/4 lengths before a tired Joyful Victory, the 2-1 second choice.

"They went pretty fast early, and she might have been goofing around down the stretch," winning trainer Dale Romans said in explaining how Afleeting Lady maybe could have won by more.

Afleeting Lady was purchased this fall by Richard Santulli and the Alpha Delta Stables of John Clay. The owners' representative, Reynolds Bell, was on hand, and while he would not completely commit to Afleeting Lady being retired, he said it was likely. If so, the mare ends her career with 7 wins from 20 overall starts and in a three-race stakes win streak, having won the Lady's Secret at Monmouth Park and the Turnback the Alarm at Belmont Park in her preceding starts. She earned $98,704 Thursday to lift her career bankroll to $473,526.

Afleeting Lady, a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Afleet Alex, was produced by the mare Oatsee, making her an older half-sister to 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, the morning-line favorite for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Friday.

The win was the second in the Falls City for Romans, a Louisville native who won in 2004 with Halory Leigh. It was also his 19th win this year in a graded stakes during a year in which he is regarded as a major contender for his first Eclipse Award as top trainer.

Arena Elvira, the defending champion, finished fourth and was followed in order by Maristar, Aint She a Saint, and Sea Level Drive.

The $2 exacta (7-6) paid $16.20; the $1 trifecta (7-6-1) returned $16.10; and the dime superfecta (7-6-1-2) was worth a mere $3.60.