Chilukki winner Spelling Again has found her niche at Churchill
The 3-1 third choice in a field of seven fillies and mares, Spelling Again rated in second behind three-year-old rival Keen Pauline through splits of :23.47 and :46.42. Seizing control approaching the six-furlong mark, she quickly found herself a length in front in 1:11.44, and drew off under Shaun Bridgmohan to score comfortably by 4 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:35.75 on a fast track. She returned $8.60.
"No shocker that she won but for her to kick away from those kind of fillies the way that she did was a little bit of a shock," Cox said. "Shaun rode her great. Shaun is just so quiet and sits quiet on her and lets her do her thing. When he asks her to go, she goes."
Ahh Chocolate, a 7-1 chance, made a wide rally into contention and edged second choice Gold Medal Dancer by a head for the place. Birdatthewire, the 7-5 favorite while making her first start since the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (G1), never factored in a fifth-place effort.
Spelling Again was claimed out of three straight races at Santa Anita earlier this year, the last time for $40,000 on May 30. Haltered that day by trainer Bill Spawr, the bay eventually found her way to Cox, for whom she has won three times in five outings. Third and first in a pair of Indiana Grand allowances, she followed up with a one-length score in the Open Mind on September 12.
Most recently, Spelling Again finished a troubled fourth in the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) at Keeneland. Bothered and squeezed at the start, she rallied to be fourth, two lengths behind the winning Fioretti and only three parts of a length behind 2014 champion female sprinter Judy the Beauty.
Spelling Again is likely to take a pass on the Falls City H. (G2), which comes up in less than three weeks and is contested at 1 1/8 miles. A likely long-term goal is the Humana Distaff (G1) next May on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
"We talked about treating the Humana Distaff as our Breeders' Cup," Cox told Churchill Downs publicity earlier this week. "That would be a goal for next spring because seven-eighths would fit her real well here."
The Chilukki might yet produce some Falls City contenders. Not only was Birdatthewire coming off a lengthy absence, but so was Gold Medal Dancer. The Pin Oak homebred, who conquered champion Untapable in the Azeri (G2) last March, was having her first outing since the Fleur de Lis H. (G2) in June.
Those two, and perhaps Keen Pauline, could wheel back for the Thanksgiving Day feature.
(Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)