Sheep Pond Partners' Lady Eli solidified her return to the top of the game when she fended off Goodyearforroses (IRE) to capture the $300,000 Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita on May 27. The 5-year-old mare – who was sidelined a year in 2015-2016 while she overcame a bout of laminitis – never has been worse than second in 11 career outings. Trained by Chad Brown, she has eight wins and three seconds and is closing in on $2.5 million in earnings.
Bred by Runnymede Farm and Catesby Clay in Kentucky, the daughter of Divine Park is a granddaughter of Runnymede foundation mare Kazadancoa (FR), a daughter of Green Dancer purchased by Clay in France in 1982. Runnymede consigned Lady Eli to Keeneland’s 2013 September Yearling Sale, where she sold for $160,000 to Pete Bradley’s Bradley Thoroughbreds, agent.
“She was a very forward filly,” Runnymede CEO Brutus J. Clay III said. “When prepping her class of yearlings, she was our best walker and very well balanced. She was the alpha in the field, but pretty straightforward to work with in the barn. There is a video of a conversation between previous Runnymede manager Martin O’Dowd and myself, and she was clearly our top pick of the fillies that year. We talked about keeping her, since we bred her sire, Divine Park. That said, we thought she sold well at $160,000.”
“She was extremely athletic and had a real presence about her,” Bradley recalled. “My partner Eddie Woods had seen her first and loved her. When we both went back to look at her, I remember saying to him, 'You’re going to make me pay too much for this one, aren’t you?' ”
In 2014, Eddie Woods, agent, sold Lady Eli for $160,0000 to Jay Hanley of Sheep Pond Partners at Keeneland’s April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. A Grade 1 winner in each of her four campaigns, Lady Eli also won the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita, 2015 Belmont Oaks Invitational and 2016 Flower Bowl, both at Belmont. In the first start of 2017, she was second in Keeneland’s Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) on April 15.
Lady Eli was the 3-5 favorite in the Gamely. Rider Irad Ortiz Jr. kept Lady Eli just off pacesetter Avenge, a change from her usual off-the-pace running style. Lady Eli collared the pacesetter at the head of the lane, then held off a hard-charging Goodyearforroses to win the 1 1/8-mile turf stakes by a half-length.
Lady Eli’s comeback from a brave battle with laminitis and her tremendous success have thrilled racing fans, including Bradley.
“While I make a living as a bloodstock agent by buying, selling and trading horses, the main reason I do what I do is to try to find exceptional equine athletes,” he said. “My job is to be a talent scout. So for me, Lady Eli is the fruition of my passion for this sport. She is one of the best of her generation.”