Fleur de Lis: Who's coming in hot, and who's not

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June 24th, 2020

A “Win and You’re In” berth to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) is on the line in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis H. (G2), one of four graded stakes races scheduled to be run Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The 1 1/8-mile race has attracted seven talented fillies and mares, including champion Midnight Bisou, and handicappers have a lot to analyze. Which runners are entering the race in peak form, and which will need to rebound from disappointing efforts?

Let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not heading into the Fleur de Lis.

Who’s Hot

#3 Chocolate Kisses

A late-charging winner of the 2019 Honeybee (G3) traveling 1 1/16 miles, Chocolate Kisses faltered when she faced Grade 1 company last season, but her 4-year-old campaign has been marked by improvement since she returned from a 7 1/2-month layoff.

She followed a second-place effort on turf at Fair Grounds with a gallant, runner-up effort in the 1 1/16-mile Shawnee S. on May 23 at Churchill Downs, where she was beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by Grade 1 winner Dunbar Road. Chocolate Kisses has shown more tactical speed this season and enters the Fleur de Lis poised for a career-best effort.

#5 Midnight Bisou

With seven wins from her last nine starts, the champion older dirt female of 2019 has turned into a winning machine for trainer Steve Asmussen.

A five-time Grade 1 winner, Midnight Bisou kicked off 2020 with a huge, runner-up effort against males in the $20 million Saudi Cup, where she was beaten less than a length by champion Maximum Security.

She has continued to train strongly at Churchill Downs and will be tough to beat, if she brings anything close to her "A" game in the Fleur de Lis.

Who’s Not

#4 Serengeti Empress

The winner of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) over this track and distance in 2019, Serengeti Empress kicked off 2020 on a fine note. She finished second by a half-length in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), then romping by 6 1/4 lengths in the Azeri (G2).

But Serengeti Empress can be inconsistent and enters the Fleur de Lis off an 11th-place effort in the April 18 Apple Blossom H. (G1).

It’s possible she simply struggled after she couldn't secure the early lead (five of her six wins have come in gate-to-wire fashion), so a rebound could be in the offing, if Serengeti Empress shakes loose on an uncontested lead. But such a favorable scenario isn’t guaranteed, which makes Serengeti Empress hard to trust at a short price.

How to play the Race

We won’t oppose Midnight Bisou, who looms as a deserving favorite with jockey Mike Smith in the saddle.

We’ll play her on top of a trifecta — using Chocolate Kisses, Serengeti Empress, and also #1 Go Google Yourself underneath — just to cover for the possibility Serengeti Empress will turn in another sub-par effort to finish off the board

$7.50 trifecta: 5 with 3 with 1,4 ($15)
$7.50 trifecta: 5 with 1,4 with 3 ($15)
Total: $30

Good luck!