06/17/2017 10:03PM

Forever Unbridled gains berth in Breeders' Cup Distaff

Coady Photography
Forever Unbridled paid $4.20 in winning the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One race into her 2017 season, Forever Unbridled has already punched her ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar on Nov. 3.

She earned an expenses-paid Breeders’ Cup berth by winning the Grade 2, $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap, a “Win and You’re In” challenge race for the Distaff, on Saturday evening at Churchill Downs.

Although her victory came against a modest field and her winning margin was fairly small – 1 3/4 lengths over 13-1 pacesetter Apologynotaccepted – the manner in which she won following a layoff of more than seven months after a third in the 2016 Distaff suggests she could be a factor in the Breeders’ Cup and in other major divisional races this year.

Confidently handled by jockey Joel Rosario, she rated in sixth during the early stages of the 1 1/8-mile race, and was asked to run only over the final half-mile.  Cut loose from a firm hold on the final turn, she began to pick off rivals in front of her with a wide rally, and once asked to go over the final furlong, surged past Apologynotaccepted in the final sixteenth to win going away under a hand ride.

A 5-year-old daughter of Unbridled Song out of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, Forever Unbridled raced 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.94, over 2 seconds slower than the 1:47.56 clocking posted by Gun Runner in winning the Grade 1 Stephen Foster a race later. She paid $4.20 as the heavy favorite in the field of eight.

There was a gap of 3 1/2 lengths from Apologynotaccepted to third-place Carrumba, who edged Big World by a head for the show.

Dallas Stewart, who trains Forever Unbridled for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, was ecstatic with her victory. “I tell you what, she’s a true racehorse,” he said.

Future racing plans have not been definitely outlined, Stewart said, though he mentioned the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga Aug. 27 as a possibility, along with perhaps a start at Belmont thereafter. The one race definitely targeted is the Distaff, a race for which Songbird, last year’s runner-up, has also already earned a “Win and You’re In” berth, taking last week’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont.