It’s quitting time for one of the sport’s most recent fan favorites. Lady Eli retires this week officially after an electric turf career that was highlighted by wins that enjoyed major victories every season with wins in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, the 2015 Belmont Oaks, 2016 Flower Bowl Invitational and the 2017 Gamely Stakes. The now six-year-old mare will retire and stand as a broodmare for the upcoming breeding season as well.
Originally bred by Runnymede Farms and Casteby W. Clay, Lady Eli was originally purchased as a yearling for $160,000 by Bradley Thoroughbreds. One year later she was flipped for $160,000 to Jay Hanley and Sol Kumin and that’s where she would link up with Chad Brown to begin an illustrious and amazing career.
Lady Eli retires having spent her time as a filly winning six straight races before falling to second in the 2015 Ballston Spa Handicap. She would then win her first Flower Bowl Invitational in 2015 before finishing as a runner-up to Queen’s Trust in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The 2017 season began with a second place finish to Dickinson in the coveted Jenny Wiley before Lady Eli ripped off three straight wins to enter the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf as the overall favorite.
There was hope that she would use the victory to catapult in to the 2018 season, but injuries suffered at the world championships would force the hands of her connections. Thus Lady Eli retires following the worst loss of her career. The choice was arduous for Hanley and Kumin. “We have been wrestling with the very difficult decision of whether to race or retire Lady Eli since we scratched her from the Keeneland November sale days after she was injured in the Filly & Mare Turf,” said the owners via statement. “As her stewards we—with Chad’s guidance at every turn—have tried to shepherd Lady Eli through her racing career with the utmost respect, compassion, and love for her as a living being first, and secondarily as a racehorse. It is in this spirit that we have ultimately chosen to retire Lady Eli from racing and allow her to gracefully—and safely—begin her career as a broodmare.
“We can’t begin to put into words how deeply she has affected us, our families, and our friends,” the statement continued. “We are all eternally grateful to her for granting us such intimate access to her journey. Similarly, there is no way that we can properly express in this forum our debt of gratitude to Chad, his staff, and all of Lady Eli’s caretakers through the years. Lastly, we would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to the legions of Lady Eli supporters and admirers from around the globe.”
It’s certainly a loss for the sport. Until the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Lady Eli had routinely finished in the top-two. That is remarkable consistency given how hard it is to make it Lady Eli retires with a sterling record of 10-3-0 in 14 starts and $2,950,800. She is in line to breed with War Story as she embarks on her next career.
There’s no doubt that handicappers and horseplayers will miss her on the track.