05/27/2017 7:04PM

Lady Eli has to work hard to prevail in Gamely

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Benoit & Associates
Lady Eli wins by a half-length under Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Gamely.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Lady Eli was tested through the final furlong of Saturday’s Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita, holding off a stubborn Goodyearforroses to win by a half-length.

The $300,000 Gamely for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf was Lady Eli’s eighth stakes win in her 11th start, and her fourth Grade 1 win in a career that includes victories in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita in 2014, the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks in 2015, and the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park last October.

Saturday’s win ended a two-race losing streak – the longest of Lady’s Eli’s career – and put her on course for a big-race campaign that will continue in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga on July 22, trainer Chad Brown said in a telephone interview.

From his base in New York, Brown was left impressed by Lady Eli’s win in the Gamely, run in a quick 1:45.29.

“She showed her class,” Brown said. “I was expecting a top performance. She was training so well.

“It gives us so much confidence. She’s never let us down.”

Ridden by regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Lady Eli stalked pacesetter Avenge for the first six furlongs and took the lead in early stretch. Avenge faded from contention in the final furlong, but 8-1 Goodyearforroses provided a formidable threat in the final furlong.

“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Ortiz said of his tactics. “She’s great.”

Avenge set uniform fractions of 23.23 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.46 for a half-mile. Avenge led by a head after six furlongs in 1:09.69 when Lady Eli moved to the front from second.

Lady Eli and Avenge were second and third in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf here last November. The Gamely was Avenge’s first start since November.

“There was a lot of pressure in the first part,” trainer Richard Mandella said. “I didn’t expect that, but that’s racing.”

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Lady Eli was second in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on April 15 in her first start of the year, losing by a head.

Goodyearforroses won three stakes at Santa Anita through the winter, including the Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes on March 12. She was fifth in the Jenny Wiley after a wide trip and ran arguably the best race of her career in the Gamely.

“It was a legitimate race in 1:45 and 1,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “I was proud of her.”

The Baltas-trained Mokat finished fourth, followed by Pretty Girl in the small field. September Stars was scratched on Saturday morning.

Owned by Sheep Pond Partners, Lady Eli has earned $2,419,800. Brown said earlier this week he wants to race Lady Eli only in Grade 1 races this year. The $500,000 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf fits the bill as one of the top races of the division each summer.