The only worse traffic bottleneck than the one leaving Churchill Downs was encountered by Stacelita coming off the final turn in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Friday.
Trained by Mechanicville native Chad Brown, Stacelita went off as the 9-5 favorite, but failed to make a winning move off the turn and faded to 10th of 11 behind 27-1 Perfect Shirl.
Brown, who enjoyed a career breakout race at the 2008 Breeders’ Cup, when Maram won the Juvenile Fillies Turf, was in position to win an Eclipse Award for top turf female, but didn’t get the performance he wanted from the star of his stable.
“I did have high expectations for her,” he said. “It’s very disappointing. It’s her final career race, and I wanted her to go out on top, but . . . I’ll be back. I’ll be back.”
Indeed, Brown will saddle 20-1 Fantastic Song in the BC Juvenile Turf today.
Perfect Shirl, owned by Charles Fipke and trained by Roger Attfield, had not won since taking the Lake George at Saratoga Race Course last year.
“She’s a filly that’s been gradually getting better and better all year,” Attfield said. “I said two months ago this is going to be a hell of a filly next year, and I really believe she will be, too.”
Stacelita, owned by Martin Schwartz, came into the Breeders’ Cup having won two straight Grade I’s, the Beverly D. at Arlington Park and the Flower Bowl at Belmont Park, giving Brown, a former assistant to the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, the second and third Grade I victories of his career as a head trainer.
The Flower Bowl win did not come without penalty, though, as Stacelita caught a piece of turf in her right eye.
She wore a protective clear plastic cup over it during training and still had it on for the Breeders’ Cup.
The 2-1 morning-line favorite and jockey Ramon Dominguez had good stalking position on the rail behind Dubawi Heights in the 11-furlong Filly & Mare Turf, until they came off the final turn.
Dominguez told Brown he believed he had enough horse to get through the tight spot, but she didn’t respond willingly enough, and the opening closed just as quickly as it had opened.
Stuck in traffic, Dominguez angled Stacelita off the rail in the stretch, but she had no run and beat just one horse, 56-1 Dynaslew, who was vanned off as a precaution when it was observed that she was acting mildly lame.
“He felt like he had a lot of horse at the three-eighths pole, and then as the hole opened, he really didn’t have enough horse to punch through it, even though the hole did close up,” Brown said. “You always run the risk of getting boxed in, but at the three-eighths pole, she looked like she was still bent in half with plenty of horse. I don’t know what transpired from there. She looked like she was loaded, and then she got shut off, but I’m not sure how much horse he had.”
Brown said the eye injury wasn’t an issue, and Stacelita didn’t miss any training because of it.
“She had a very difficult four weeks,” he said. “I’m not trying to make excuses, but she had the eye problem. Her training looked good to me, her breezes were perfect. I don’t know how much the protective eye cup affected her. She breezed with it fine. There’s several factors in there that might’ve contributed to her not giving me her ‘A’ race. That’s horse racing.”
The previously undefeated 3-year-old Nahrain briefly took the lead in midstretch, but Perfect Shirl came five-wide and wore down Nahrain to win by three-quarters of a length.
“I’m ecstatic,” Attfield said. “I had my doubts about running her. I was very concerned because she’s never been able to handle a soft course. Once I saw how she was moving down the backside, I could see she was moving beautifully and I became very excited.”
Brown also saddled Dayatthespa in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and she was in contention early, but faded to ninth behind long shot Stephanie’s Kitten.
Dayatthespa broke her maiden by four lengths first time out at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 4.
The Lemon Drop Kid colt was 20-1 on the morning line.
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