LOUISVILLE — Once again, jockey Calvin Borel was faced with an impossibly small opening on the Churchill Downs rail.
And once again, Borel thought nothing of it.
Miss Isella squeezed through a narrow opening on the rail in the upper stretch and then fought off a challenge from Swift Temper to capture the Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap by three-quarters of a length for her second consecutive graded stakes score.
After tracking the pace in fourth, Borel began to make his surge to the front at the top of the stretch but was hemmed in tight by Distinctive Dixie just to his outside.
Though Miss Isella bounced off the rail as she brushed past Distinctive Dix ie, the gutsy daughter of Silver Charm drew off in the final yards to complete the 11⁄8 miles in 1:49.59 over a fast track.
"When I got up into the hole, Distinctive Dixie kind of came back down and shut me off," said Borel, who burst through a similarly tight opening when he guided Mine That Bird to victory in the Kentucky Derby.
"She brushed my filly a little bit, but they had a lot of room when I drove her in there. It wasn't that bad. It looked bad because it threw her into the air and off stride, but that's the name of the game."
Trained by Ian Wilkes, Miss Isella was coming off a win in the Grade II Louisville Distaff Handicap at Churchill on May 1.
Florentino holds on in Jefferson Cup
After getting away with a soft half-mile in :50.26, Florentino had enough in reserve to hold off favored El Crespo in deep stretch to earn his first graded stakes win in the Grade II Jefferson Cup Stakes on Saturday.
Florentino loped along leisurely under jockey Alan Garcia but found himself challenged by El Crespo at the head of the lane. Florentino rebroke in midstretch, however, pulling clear to win by three-quarters of a length.
Florentino, who was shipped to Churchill Downs after the Grade III Hill Prince was rained off the turf at Belmont Park on June 5, covered the 11⁄8-mile turf test in 1:51.59.
"The mile-and-an-eighth we were worried about and maybe soft turf we were worried about, but he goes and throws in a race like that," said Neal McLaughlin, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "It was beautiful."
■ In the day's other graded stakes action, Successful Dan outdueled Warrior's Reward in a stretch-long battle to win the Grade III Northern Dancer by a head.
Keertana held off a late bid by The Best Day Ever to win the Grade III Regret Stakes by a neck, capping off a five-victory day for jockey Robby Albarado.