Cilla prevailed by a half length in the 74th running of the Grade 2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 4, 2021. NYRA Photo.

Cilla Returns to Keeneland With Momentum on Her Side Ahead of Raven Run

By Alicia Hughes

In her only prior appearance at Keeneland, the chart comment for Cilla deemed the filly a curt “no factor” in reference to her sixth-place effort in the Beaumont Stakes (G3) this past April. Since that less-than-assertive outing, the daughter of California Chrome has performed as if she took that declaration personally.

Fresh off notching her first career graded stakes victory this summer, P. Dale Ladner’s Cilla will bring a three-race win streak with her when she returns to Keeneland this weekend against a dozen other sophomore fillies in the $250,000 Lexus Raven Run (G2) going seven furlongs on Oct. 23.

Since running sixth as a 62-1 shot in the Beaumont, Cilla has rebounded in definitive fashion, winning stakes at Evangeline and Monmouth Park before upsetting a bunch that included fellow Raven Run entrant Souper Sensational in the Prioress Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 4. 

“I think the light bulb went on after the Beaumont,” said trainer Brett Brinkman, who co-bred Cilla with Ladner. “She was not a very confident filly early on, but we gave her some time, and I think maturity has played a big part for her mentally and physically.”

Cilla ran in the name of New York-based conditioner Charlton Baker in the Prioress as Brinkman did not take out a trainer’s license in New York. While she carried double-digit odds that day, the bay filly boasted the back class of having run third in the 2020 Frizette Stakes (G1) where she was beaten by Dayoutoftheoffice and Vequist – the latter of whom would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).

“We didn’t really focus on (the Raven Run) because she went through another growth spurt,” Brinkman said. “We were going to wait to go to Fair Grounds for Louisiana Champions Day (Dec. 11), but Mr. Ladner and I started talking about it and she needs to answer the seven-furlong question. Most of the big races for fillies and mares next year are seven-eighths, so this is the time to answer that question.”

Bred in Louisiana, Cilla has won five of ten starts with earnings of $326,000. Tyler Gaffalione will have the mount Saturday and break from post position seven.

Souper Sensational, winner of the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park who has placed in three graded stakes, was runner-up in the Grade 1 Test Stakes prior to her effort in the Prioress. Trained by Mark Casse, the daughter of Curlin has shown improvement since shortening up in distance after a pair of losses going two turns in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).

“I think Souper Sensational is a better sprinter; a mile is about as far as she wants to go,” Casse said.

Souper Sensational is owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, which – with seven Keeneland stakes victories on its resume – is on the verge of achieving a Keeneland tray to hold eight Keeneland Trophy Cups as part of the track’s signature Milestone Trophy Program. A total of 21 trays have been awarded with the first to Hasty House Farm during the 1955 Spring Meet and the most recent to Shadwell Stable during this year’s Spring Meet.

Juddmonte homebred Obligatory heads into the Raven Run off a second-place finish in the 1 1/6-miles Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx on Sept. 25 and is cutting back to the distance where she has enjoyed her best run. The daughter of Curlin closed like a shot to win the seven-furlong Eight Belles Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on April 30 and was second to Search Results in the one-mile Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5.

Trained by Bill Mott, Obligatory drew post 13 and will be ridden by Florent Geroux on Saturday.