May 28, 2022

Finley’sluckycharm headlines Chicago Handicap at Churchill

Finley’sluckycharm wins the Winning Colors Stakes (G3) under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 27, 2017 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

The $100,000 Chicago Handicap (G3), which will be run at Churchill Downs for the first time on Saturday, has drawn a nice baker’s dozen of distaff sprinters to contest the one-turn affair.

In 27 prior editions, the Chicago ‘Cap took place at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, but would have been forced into hiatus for 2017 if Churchill hadn’t stepped up to host the seven-furlong contest.

Heading the 13-strong field is Finley’sluckycharm, who is 7-1-0 from nine career starts. The Bret Calhoun-trained four-year-old captured the Winning Colors Stakes (G3) and Roxelana Stakes going six furlongs at Churchill in her two races so far this year. She closed out her sophomore campaign with a close second in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park, which snapped a three-race win streak the Twirling Candy filly had run up.

“It was a very good race in the La Brea – a heartbreaking loss,” Calhoun said. “I kind of understood it. We were a little bit vulnerable coming off two very fast races on the speed figures over a short period of time and shipping to California. She got pressed the whole way. It was a tough loss but I kind of understood it.

“I think seven-eighths is probably her maximum distance with top-level horses. She’s a fast filly and she wants to be fast in her races. She’s not rank but she’s just naturally fast. (And) she does have an affinity for the Churchill Downs racing strip.”

Finley’sluckycharm has been unplaced only once, in last year’s Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, and is five-for-five under the Twin Spires.

“We’ve got the ($1 million) Breeders’ Cup (Filly & Mare Sprint [G1] going seven furlongs) on our mind,” Calhoun admitted. “We’re hopeful we end up (at Del Mar on November 4) and we’re kind of campaigning her in that direction. We’re still at our home base and, hopefully, we can save a little bit for the fall.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. has been aboard for the dark bay filly’s past five starts and retains the mount on Saturday.

“She does everything so well and has such good natural speed that I just have to stay out of her way,” Hernandez said.

Finley’sluckycharm will see quite a few familiar faces in the Chicago ‘Cap. Mayla ran fifth in the Roxelana as the 1-5 favorite and second next out in the Winning Colors at 18-1. Sweetgrass followed a fourth-place finish in the Humana Distaff (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day with a rallying third in the Winning Colors last out.

Covey Trace was no match for Finley’sluckycharm when fourth behind that winner in both the Dream Supreme Stakes last November and the Winning Colors last out. Pleasant Tales filled that same spot in the Roxelana most recently on April 29, while Athena ran second in the Roxelana prior to a fading fifth in the Winning Colors.

Kathballu finished second in last year’s Chicago Handicap when it was held at Arlington, and enters this Churchill Downs edition off a closing third in the Roxelana. The Kenny McPeek-trained five-year-old is 3-0-2 from 10 starts under the Twin Spires and keeps Florent Geroux in the irons on Saturday.

Completing the Chicago ‘Cap field are Grade 2-placed stakes winner Mines and Magic; stakes debuter Ivy Bell; Improv, a neck second in the Matron Stakes (G2) at 28-1; stakes scorer She Mabee Wild; Grade 3-placed Put Da Blame on Me; and Grade 2-placed dual stakes heroine Stageplay.