LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- You might say there were a few no-shows Thursday at Churchill Downs for the Falls City Handicap, which was won in a mild upset by the Canadian invader, Serenading.
Swift Temper was scratched early in the day from the Grade 2, $160,950 Falls City. Then the 1-2 favorite, Unbridled Belle, just didn't show her usual stuff on the racetrack, breaking sluggishly under Ramon Dominguez, bidding toward the lead at the quarter-pole, then flattening out to be a well-beaten third.
Even the winning owners, John and Glenn Sikura, and the winning trainer, Josie Carroll, were nowhere around, having stayed home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
But Julien Leparoux, who rode Serenading to her three-length triumph over Morena in a field of five fillies and mares, was present and accounted for. Leparoux, who will miss the final two days (Friday and Saturday) of the 21-day Churchill fall meet to ride in Japan, said he liked how the race shaped up.
"I thought Ramon would be in front, but I guess she didn't break very good," said Leparoux. "After that I just tried to keep her behind me."
After Best Lass led through the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile Falls City, three rivals came charging at her, with Unbridled Belle, carrying high weight of 122 pounds, widest of all. Ever so briefly, all four were neck and neck, but by the eighth pole, Serenading began edging clear near the rail. She won decisively, with Morena another 2 1/2 lengths before Unbridled Belle. Best Lass and Copper State completed the order.
Serenading, a 5-year-old mare by A.P. Indy, carried 116 pounds and returned $11.60 as third choice after finishing in 1:50.66 over a fast track. She had raced only once beforehand on dirt, in her March 2007 debut. Otherwise, her 16 preceding starts all had come on synthetics. She now has 6 wins and 7 seconds, with earnings of $538,754.
Six-year-old Unbridled Belle wrapped up her 25-race career with 8 wins and earnings of $1,909,823.
Swift Temper was scratched before the 12-race Thursday card began, further depleting what already had been a thin race.
Mark Stanley, owner of Swift Temper, said the 5-year-old mare had been diagnosed with a fractured splint bone and "most likely" will be retired. "It's a shame, because we were all really looking forward to seeing her go out the right way today," said Stanley.
Swift Temper, by Giant's Causeway, won 6 of 31 career starts and earned $1,296,688.