06/24/2017 5:21PM

Finley'sluckycharm delivers as favorite in Chicago Handicap

Coady Photography
Finley'sluckycharm and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. win the Chicago Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It’s not too often that a horse wins three races at a Churchill Downs spring meet anymore, and it’s nearly impossible to win three stakes. But that’s what Finley’sluckycharm did Saturday when punching her ticket to Saratoga with a 2 1/4-length triumph in the 28th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Chicago Handicap.

Confidently ridden on the early lead by Brian Hernandez Jr., Finley’sluckycharm was kept to her task with a series of right-handed love taps down the stretch before completing seven furlongs in 1:22.17 over a fast track. She returned $2.60 after carrying the high weight of 124 pounds.

“She laid right up there the way she does,” said Hernandez. “I just try to stay out of her way.”

Ivy Bell finished second at 24-1, 2 1/2 lengths before Mayla in a field of 10 fillies and mares. They were followed by She Mabee Wild, Kathballu, Covey Trace, Athena, Sweetgrass, Stageplay, and Pleasant Tales. Three fillies were early scratches from an original lineup of 13: Mines and Magic, Improv, and Put Da Blame On Me.

Owned by Carl Moore Management LLC, Finley’sluckycharm won the ungraded Roxelana on April 29, opening night of the spring meet, then added the Grade 3 Winning Colors four weeks later. She now is 6 for 6 at Churchill, where her latest races figure to set her up perfectly for her next two starts, both at Saratoga – the Grade 2 Honorable Miss on July 26 and the Grade 1 Ballerina on Aug. 26.

“We’ll probably send her up there about July 14,” said trainer Bret Calhoun. “She does love Churchill Downs, but she likes pretty much every track she runs on.”

Finley’sluckycharm, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by Twirling Candy, now has won eight of 10 career starts and earned $403,368.

Billy Denzik, the trainer of Ivy Bell, said he was thrilled with how the filly ran in her stakes debut. “Our goal was to get her graded-stakes-placed, so this is almost like a win,” said Denzik. “We’ll probably run next at Ellis Park” in the Grade 3 Groupie Doll on Aug. 13.

The $2 exacta (8-5) paid $39.20, the $1 trifecta (8-5-7) returned $145.70, and the 10-cent superfecta (8-5-7-10) was worth $173.76.

This was the first time the Chicago was run somewhere other than its original home, Arlington Park. Owned by Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington has undergone a severe purse crunch amid declining business, which prompted the switch. One other Arlington fixture, the Grade 3 Matron, was run earlier at this meet.

• Finley’sluckycharm was one of nine winning favorites on an 11-race card held on a beautiful summer afternoon. One of those winners, Nessy ($4.20), captured the prior race, a $55,539 allowance at 1 1/2 miles on the turf, also with Hernandez aboard.

• Just four days remain at the 38-day spring meet: a daytime Sunday card, then eight-race twilight programs on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a Downs After Dark finale on Friday night. Ellis starts its summer meet directly afterward with four straight days of action July 1-4.