(She’s a Julie winning at Churchill Downs on KY Oaks Day in the G1 La Troienne Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Steve Asmussen has been pushing a lot of the right buttons of late. Going into Thursday’s race card at Churchill Downs, the gentle Texas has made 20 trips to the winner’s circle and has jumped out to a commanding leading the race to be this meet’s leading trainer.
At the same time, Asmussen has been punching a few tickets, as well. Last Saturday, Asmussen and his world traveler and super talented filly Midnight Bisou earned a free trip to this year’s Breeders’ Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff by winning the G1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
And, on Saturday night, Asmussen will be playing and praying for another huge victory. And, another freebie.
On Saturday night, Asmussen can earn another automatic trip and spot in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff when he saddles She;’s a Julie in the G2 Fleur de Lis Stakes under the lights and the Twin Spires.
The 11/8-mile Fleur de Lis a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, where the winner guarantees a spot in the Distaff — which will be contested at the same distance on Nov. 2.
And, I would not be betting against the Asmussen Team. Not now. Not in this race.
So far this year, She’s a Julie has made a giant stride forward — winning both of her races in 2019, to date. The Elusive Quality daughter won the G3 Bayakoa Stakes in February down at Hot Springs, AR and at Oaklawn Park. On May 3, KY Oaks Day, she won the G1 La Troienne over this same track.
She will be stretching out a half-furlong farther on Saturday night, and will be contesting a distance that she has never won at previously, she did run second in the 11/4-mile G1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last summer. In that effort, she nipped her more accomplished and notorious roommate, Midnight Bisou, for the second slot.
But this event will not be an easy for for She’s a Julie, Asmussen, or anyone else, for that matter.
The competition will be stiff.
There is Elate, coming from the barn of Bill Mott. Although she has dropped two in row this year to Midnight Bisou, Elate is one of the best mares in the world, and has been for the past two years. Elate was second in the G2 Azeri, beaten a length. She was third in the G1 Apple Blossom Handicap. But she could be better at this extended distance on Saturday.
Blue Prize, third in the La Troienne, won the Fleur de Lis and the G1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland last Fall. She was fourth over this track in the 2018 version of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, using to the Champion, Monomoy Girl. There has been only one two-time winner of this Stakes before, and that was Likely Exchange in 1978 and 1980. The first running came in 1975.
Rounding out the field will be Skeptic (winner of the G3 Monmouth Oaks), Go Google Yourself (runner-up in the G3 Doubledogdare Stakes) and Auspicious Babe (elevating out of the allowance ranks).
Figures to be a good one.