Charles E. Fipke's 5-year-old homebred mare Forever Unbridled, who finished third behind champions Beholder and Songbird in last November's Breeders' Cup Distaff (Grade I) at Santa Anita, will make her first start of the year as the 4-5 morning line favorite for Saturday's 42nd running of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap Presented by el Jimador (GII) at Churchill Downs.
For the third year in a row, the 1 1/8-mile Fleur De Lis is a Breeders' Cup Challenge Series “Win and You're In” stakes event, which means the winner will be guaranteed a berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (GI) at Del Mar on Nov. 3.
The Fleur de Lis will be run as Race 7 at 9:09 p.m. (all times Eastern). It will be televised live by NBCSN as part of the “Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In, presented by Lane's End Farm and America's Best Racing” broadcast that airs from 8:30-10 p.m.
Forever Unbridled, trained by Dallas Stewart, will face a filed of eight fillies and mares in the 1 1/8-mile race. It will mark her first start since undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from her left front ankle after the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She had been under consideration for start in the $100,000 Chicago Handicap (GIII), a seven-furlong sprint for females at Churchill Downs on June 24, but Stewart opted to make her comeback here.
“Obviously getting her back in top shape for the Breeders' Cup is the main goal so we'll keep our options open and hope for the best,” Stewart said.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled Song and 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever had an outstanding 4-year-old campaign with Grade I wins in the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park and $400,000 Beldame at Belmont Park.
Overall, Forever Unbridled, who'll break from the rail under Joel Rosario, boasts a 14-5-3-4—$1,591,600 career record.
Also expected to draw support are Big World and Romantic Vision, who finished 1-2 in the $300,000 La Troienne Presented by Spirited Funds (GI) on Kentucky Oaks Day; Allaire DuPont Distaff (GIII) runner-up Carrumba; and Matron (GIII) winner Walkabout.
The Fleur de Lis Handicap field from the rail out (with jockeys, assigned weights and morning line odds): Forever Unbridled (Rosario, 123 pounds, 4-5); Walkabout (Brian Hernandez Jr., 120, 10-1); Carrumba (John Velazquez, 117, 6-1); Crooked Stick (Sophie Doyle, 115, 30-1); Big World (Florent Geroux, 121, 6-1); Romantic Vision (Julien Leparoux, 118, 8-1); Apologynotaccepted (Luis Saez, 117, 15-1); Tiger Moth (Javier Castellano, 114, 12-1); and Weep No More (Corey Lanerie, 116, 10-1).
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