Elate launched her move on the far turn and cruised to a facile victory in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G2), winning the prestigious event for the second straight year. The Bill Mott-trained mare clearly loves the 1 1/4-mile trip, improving to three-for-three, and connections have every reason to consider the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) following this spectacular performance.
The Classic takes place at her favorite distance and looks wide-open presently. Elate has never been better than she was in Saturday’s Del ‘Cap, and the Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred looks poised for a major fall campaign.
She settled in fifth under regular rider Jose Ortiz as Gotham Gala sped forward and showed the way through :24, :48 and 1:12 1/5 splits with Escape Clause tracking in second. Escape Clause advanced to take the lead on the far turn but her advantage was short-lived. Ortiz asked his mount for run leaving the backstretch and Elate responded with a lethal turn of foot, accelerating past Escape Clause before conclusion of the bend.
The dark bay daughter of Medaglia d’Oro entered the stretch with a widening advancing and was placed under wraps early, winning more easily than the 4 1/2-length margin suggests.
Favored at 1-5, Elate stopped the teletimer in a respectable 2:02 2/5, more than two seconds faster than her winning time last year.
Elate opened her 2018 season with a 3 1/4-length win in the Del ‘Cap but was sidelined after recording a neck second to champion Abel Tasman in the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga six weeks later. She didn’t make it back for nearly seven months, returning this spring with a pair of placings to Midnight Bisou in the Azeri (G2) and Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
Those setbacks raised some concern but Elate just needed a couple of starts to shake off the rust. She rebounded with a comfortable tally in the June 15 Fleur des Lis (G2) at Churchill Downs and continued to move forward at Delaware Park.
Escape Clause, a convincing scorer in the Santa Monica (G2) at Santa Anita earlier this year and the 5-1 third choice in the wagering, saved second by a head over the Grade 1-winning Blue Prize. The third-placer left the starting gate as the 7-2 second choice following her runner-up to Elate in the Fleur de Lis. It was a long gap back to the rest of the field.
Elate captured the Beldame (G1) and Alabama (G1) at age three, the latter being a 5 1/2-length romp at the 1 1/4-mile distance, and is now a six-time stakes winner. She boosted her career earnings past the $2-million mark ($2,098,775) from a 16-7-5-2 record. The Kentucky-bred hails from the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Cheery.