08/26/2017 6:49PM

Lady Eli surges in final furlong to Ballston Spa triumph

Michael Amoruso
Lady Eli's victory in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga on Saturday returned $3.40 to bettors.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The sensational and beloved Lady Eli provided a perfect ending to Saturday’s Travers Day program at Saratoga when she surged through the final furlong to register a crowd-pleasing 1 1/2-length victory over the pace-setting Dickinson in the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa.

The victory was the second at the meeting for Lady Eli, who won the Grade 1 Diana in similar fashion five weeks ago.  The win also made amends for Lady Eli’s disappointing second-place finish behind Strike Charmer when returning from a 14-month layoff in the 2016 Ballston Spa.

As has been the case with many of her nine previous tallies, Lady Eli’s victory in the Ballston Star did not come easy. Reserved within striking distance by regular rider Irad Oritz Jr. off the pace set by Dickinson, Lady Eli had to steady along behind horses awaiting racing room around the second bend.  She inched her way to the outside in early stretch, then showed her usual sharp turn of foot once finally in the clear, overtaking Dickinson inside the eighth pole before edging clear at the end.

Dickinson, who handed Lady Eli one of her three career setbacks earlier this season in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, was well handled on the lead, shook off a bid from On Leave in early stretch before ultimately proving no match for the winner.

Roca Rojo, one of three fillies and mares trainer Chad Brown sent out in the five-horse Ballston Spa field, rallied belatedly to finish third. She was followed by her stablemate Antonoe and the tiring On Leave.

Lady Eli, a 5-year-old daughter of Divine Park owned by Sheep Pond Partners, covered 1 1/16 miles over a firm course in 1:39.70 and returned $3.40.

“She’s amazing, I’m so glad we decided to run her here today for a lot of reasons,” Brown said. “We got a good race into her again and most important, all the fans at Saratoga got to see her race here one more time.”

Brown said he didn’t really worry, even when Lady Eli was bottled up in traffic on the turn.

“You never know until they actually cross the wire, but I have so much confidence in her,” Brown said. “Once she tipped out, I know the devastating turn of foot she has, and I was confident she’d get there.  And I was glad she was able to kill two birds with one stone today so to speak and wipe the slate clean a little bit by avenging one of her other losses to Dickinson, and winning this race that she was unlucky to lose off the layoff last year.

"She’s really a horse of a lifetime, with everything she’s overcome and her natural ability, which is remarkable. She’s just a rare, rare horse.”        

Brown said by competing in and winning the Ballston Spa, he now has two options for Lady Eli, to either run her in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, a race she won last year, at Belmont Park on Oct. 8, or just train her up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

“Right now I’m in good position with the filly, I have the luxury of either running her once more or just waiting for the Breeders’ Cup,” said Brown, who added that at the moment Lady Eli is still scheduled to be sold, after the Breeders’ Cup, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.