Most horses aren’t as consistent and well rounded as the Illinois-bred filly My Option. She’s run on three surfaces in her nine career outings, never missed the board and scored at least one victory on dirt, turf and synthetic along the way.
She’s the real deal.
Trainer Chris Block knows it and that’s why he sends her down from his home base at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago to Churchill Downs in Louisville for the Thanksgiving featured Grade 2 Falls City Handicap.
“She’s pretty much stepped up to the plate every time I have ran her on a different surface,” said Block, who seeks a second Falls City victory to go with his 2010 score in the race with Dundalk Dust. “Do I think she’s better on some surfaces than others? Yes, but she can run a race on any surface. I don’t think I’ll be it [the surface] as an excuse afterwards.”
The 3-year-old Belong to Me filly’s last trip to the winner’s circle came four starts back in July, where she scored her first and only graded stakes victory in the Grade 3 Arlington Oaks. Block chose the Falls City for its timing and because it’s a “last good spot before the season ends.”
“She’s run a couple of good races on dirt before and it’s close to home,” he said. “She’s doing good right now and I thought we’d take a shot in a Grade 2 on the dirt.”
In addition to seeking a second graded stakes win, My Option will try to end a streak of three consecutive third-place efforts. The last third came at Keeneland Race Course in the Grade 2 Lexus Raven Run Stakes, her first start outside her native Illinois.
“She was a little knocked out for a few days because she ran hard. It was a tough race,” Block said of the Raven Run, where My Option finished two necks behind Madame Cactus and Eden Prairie. “She bounced back a week or so after just fine. I haven’t trained her that hard into this I kind of did a little freshening with her. We’re hoping that with her having run hard all year, she comes into this race a little fresher.”
The $150,000 Falls City will be My Option’s first start against older fillies and mares, which Block admits will be stiff challenge.
“It’s a tough race, she’s up against older fillies and that’s never easy to do,” he said. “There are some solid fillies and mares in there. She’s going to have to do what she’s been doing and go out there and run her top effort.”
The Falls City was supposed to attract 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, but she was retired last week. The race’s morning-line favorite, Fiftyshadesofhay at 5-2, will also skip the 1 1/8-mile race after trainer Bob Baffert opted to keep her in Southern California.
My Option will still get a tough test from what’s left of the field. The biggest might come from former claimer Flashy American, a daughter of Flashy Bull who has found success in stakes three times this season for Ken McPeek. She won the Locust Grove at Churchill, Alada at Saratoga and Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows.
“As long as we’ve kept around two turns on the dirt she’s done everything we’ve asked of her.” McPeek said. “She’s pretty consistent as long as I do that.”
Flashy American made her last start in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park, where she finished fourth and 6 lengths behind eventual Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Beholder, Authenticity and Joyful Victory.
“In hindsight, Beholder is one of the top fillies in the country so no harm done,” McPeek said. “She’s obviously a notch below those, so now it’s back to reality. This is a really good spot.”
The Falls City also attracted Don’t Tell Sophia, who won the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes last time at Churchill Downs, Ice Cream Silence, Magic Hour, Wine Princess, Owl Moon and Molly Morgan.
Two other graded stakes are on tap for the Thanksgiving holiday with the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct and Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Handicap at Hollywood Park. Both are 6-furlong sprints that drew strong fields.
Grade 1 winners Strapping Groom and The Lumber Guy take on the likes of 23-time winner and $1,848,505-earner Caixa Eletronica and multiple graded stakes winner Sage Valley in the $300,000 Fall Highweight. Strapping Groom will shoulder 135 pounds and regular rider Junior Alvarado for trainer David Jacobson.
The $100,000 Underwood attracted six entrants, led by Breeders’ Cup Sprint fourth-place finisher Majestic Stride and Grade 3 winners Roman Threat and Handsome Mike.
Entries for Thursday’s Falls City.
Entries for Thursday’s Fall Highweight.
Entries for Thursday’s Vernon O. Underwood.