Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Elate put her innate brilliance back on display July 13 at Delaware Park, where overwhelmed her rivals to score a repeat victory in the $750,125, Grade 2 Delaware Handicap.
The 122-pound highweight carried five pounds more than when she won the race in 2018, yet galloped to a 4 1/2-length score over eight opponents as the 3-10 favorite under regular rider Jose Ortiz.
Last year, carrying 117 pounds as the 3-5 favorite in an eight-horse field, Bill Mott-trained Elate cruised home for a 3 1/4-length score in the 1 1/4-mile test.
The dark bay filly was away without issue from post-position 7 Saturday and loped along in fifth while Gotham Gala took the field through quarter-mile fractions of :24.04 and :48.19 with Manitoba-bred invader Escape Clause in close pursuit.
Elate had both in her sights as three-quarters went in 1:12.34, and the 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro cruised up from fourth with devastating power to take the lead as the field turned for home. She widened her advantage through a 1:36.88 mile, and was well under wraps as she cruised past the finish line in a final time of 2:02.51 on a fast main track.
“I think she is getting back to her old form,” Ortiz said. “Hopefully, she will come out of here well and continue to get better.”
Escape Clause held for second and Blue Prize was third as Elate returned $2.60 on a $2 win ticket.
Elate won the Alabama Stakes and Beldame Stakes, both Grade 1s, in 2017 before a fourth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff that season, and made her 2018 debut in the Delaware Handicap. After a runner-up effort in the 2018 Personal Ensign Stakes, she missed the Breeders’ Cup with a splint issue and was given plenty of time to heal before a 2019 return to the races.
This year, Elate finished second in the March 16 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park and was third in the April 14 Apple Blossom Handicap there before she came nicely back to form with a victory in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap June 15 at Churchill Downs. That win punched her ticket back to the Breeders’ Cup as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
“She loves a mile and a quarter,” Ortiz said. “I am a little disappointed that there are not more races at the distance. She is the best horse in the filly and mare division going a mile and a quarter, but I also think she can cut back to a mile and an eighth and make it work.”
Elate was bred in Kentucky by her owners out of the Distorted Humor mare Cheery, and now has seven wins, five seconds, and two third-place finishes from 16 starts, with earnings of $2,098,775. She is the seventh horse to win the Delaware Handicap twice and gave Mott his fourth victory in the race, along with two-time winner Royal Delta (2012-13). Mott equaled the record held by Henry Clark and Todd Pletcher.