July 22, 2024

Vahva maintains perfect Churchill Downs record in Chicago

Vahva wins the Chicago (G2) at Churchill Downs
Vahva wins the 2024 Chicago Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs (Coady Media)

Despite being at a tactical disadvantage both on paper and on the track, Vahva maintained her undefeated record over the Churchill Downs strip by taking the $249,500 Chicago (G3) on Saturday.

Last seen taking the Derby City Distaff (G1) on Kentucky Derby weekend over arch-rival Alva Starr, Vahva on Saturday was required to run down Grade 1 veteran Society, the lone speed in the field and 10 3/4-length winner of the 2023 edition of the Chicago held at Ellis Park.

“I was confident in the filly but concerned how it would shape up,” said Vahva’s trainer Cherie DeVaux.

Vahva broke sharply under Irad Ortiz Jr., pressured Society briefly while leaving the backside chute in the seven-furlong dash, and then backed off to allow Society to set a pace of :22.44 and :44.61.

Commencing her bid around the far turn, Vahva closed the gap and then dueled with Society for nearly a furlong in upper stretch. Multiple brushes were exchanged and Vahva leaned left a bit on Society, but ultimately proved too good while pulling away from the speed in the final furlong.

The winning margin was 1 1/4 length for Vahva, who returned $2.92 after completing the course in a swift 1:21.01 over a track labeled fast. Positano Sunset rallied for second by a neck over Society, who was making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup last November and was undoubtedly in need of a race. Chi Town Lady and Royal Spa completed the order of finish.

The Chicago was the fourth career stakes win for Vahva, who in addition to the Derby City Distaff captured the Raven Run (G2) and Charles Town Oaks (G3) last season. Vahva’s lone setback in her last five starts was a half-length loss to Alva Starr in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland, though Vahva has come out on top in their two other clashes. She has now won six of 13 starts overall and more than $1.7 million for a 10-person/entity partnership that includes West Point Thoroughbreds and others.

DeVaux said Vahva is likely to use the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga as a stepping stone toward the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar.

Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds and a $380,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase. She is by Gun Runner and out of the stakes-winning Holiday Soiree, a daughter of Harlan’s Holiday.