The 3-year-olds Finite and Grand Cru Classe might possess an edge when they take on older filly and mare rivals for the first time in stakes company on Saturday in the $100,000 Chilukki Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.
The sophomore pair are both stepping back up in trip to one mile for the Chilukki after both going down to a narrow defeat to Venetian Harbor in the 7-furlong Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 17. Although that rival finished up the track on short rest in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), Finite and Grand Cru Classe are seemingly better spotted to succeed.
Two-for-two over the main track at Churchill, including last year’s Golden Rod (G2), Finite subsequently won the Rachel Alexandra (G2) but was out of action all spring and summer after surgery was performed on an ankle. Her comeback on the turf at Kentucky Downs was a tossout, but the daughter of Munnings rebounded to miss by only a neck to the loose-on-lead Venetian Harbor.
Although far less experienced, Grand Cru Classe still has tremendous potential. Winner of her first three starts in a career that dates to late May, the Bill Mott charge captured her stakes debut at Laurel on Labor Day and then finished only three parts of a length behind at the finish of the Raven Run.
Perhaps the most talented of the older brigade, Whoa Nellie would need to be at her best following a layoff that dates to Feb. 17, when she finished a close second in the Bayakoa (G3) at Oaklawn. Others with a more recent race under their belts include the multiple graded-placed Gold Standard, a track-and-distance allowance winner for Brad Cox on Oct. 31.
The Grade 2-placed Risky Mandate comes in off a wire-to-wire allowance win at Keeneland over 7 furlongs and has run well around one turn over the Churchill strip before. Unique Factor beat Risky Mandate by a length in a local allowance in late June and exits a second-place finish in the McConnell Springs S. at Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup weekend.