Fille d’Esprit, the 2022 Maryland-bred Horse of the Year and a six-time stakes winner, has been retired.

The 8-year-old daughter of Great Notion, owned by Gina and trainer Jerry Robb’s No Guts No Glory Farm and Carl Iannotta of C J I Phoenix Group, was unraced since a fifth-place finish in the Oct. 14 Maryland Million Distaff at Laurel Park. She returned to the worktab in late January and put in three timed drills at Laurel Park. However, the decision was made to retire her and breed her to Flightline for 2025.

 “We couldn’t get her hooked up with the right horse,” said Gina. “So we were going to run her another year, and then do it next year, but the discussions went out, and they accepted her. That’s what made our decision.

“She came to the farm just a few days ago, went into the small paddock, and you’d never believe she had been in training for the past few months,” Gina continued. “I think she was ready.” 

“I have to give a shoutout to Marshall Silverman, because he’s been very helpful in getting me connected with the Kentucky arena,” Gina continued. “He came into my program a few years ago, and he’s been connecting the dots for me. We worked together to get her to Flightline. The most exciting part is that we get to keep her in Maryland. We’ll deliver at the farm, and it’ll be a Maryland-bred.”

Originally campaigned by her breeders, Jim and Gail Poulos’ Sweet Spirits Stables LLC, and unraced until her 4-year-old season due to a starting gate accident, Fille d’Esprit won her second career start, a $10,000 maiden claiming race, at Laurel on June 27, 2020. She won her next start, a $10,000 non-winners of two claiming race, at Laurel on Aug. 21 of that year, and was taken out of that race by No Guts No Glory and Iannotta.

“Jerry called me, and he said he liked her pedigree,” recalls Iannotta. “It was like a $10,000 lottery ticket.”

Fille d’Esprit capped her 2020 season with four consecutive victories, but due to injury did not make her 5-year-old debut until Oct. 23, 2021, when she was sixth in the Maryland Million Distaff. 

She ended the 2021 campaign with back-to-back allowance victories, and began to shine as a 6-year-old in 2022. She won five stakes that year, with five additional stakes placings – including a third in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie – in 13 starts and earned $420,055. Three of her stakes wins (the Conniver, Maryland Million Distaff and Politely) came at Laurel, along with victories in the Susquehanna Valley at Penn National and Seeking the Pearl at Colonial Downs.

“She didn’t have to take her track with her, she could go anywhere,” recalls Jerry. “The way she went through the MATCH Series races was incredible, and the Maryland Million is always exciting.”

The Seeking the Pearl win was a particularly exciting one for Iannotta. He had recently completed treatment for prostate cancer, and the Las Vegas, Nev., resident was on the east coast on vacation with his wife. Iannotta credits the mare with getting him through treatment.

“Having her in my life was therapeutic.” said Iannotta. “I’d go into the MRI machine, and I’d replay her races, or just think of her to get me going. She kept me wanting to get better, so I could see her run. She pulled me through during a really hard time of my life.”

Her victories earned her a trio of year-end Maryland-bred awards, as she received the title of champion older female and champion sprinter along with Horse of the Year. “We were very proud of that honor,” said Gina.

As a 7-year-old, Fille d’Esprit won twice in four starts, including the What a Summer at Laurel. She also finished second in the Barbara Fritchie-G3.

Fille d’Esprit retires with a career record of 15-5-2 from 28 starts, earnings of $780,911 and a “pile of incredible memories,” according to Gina. She is the second-highest earning progeny of Maryland’s perennial leading sire Great Notion, trailing only the Robbs’ own Anna’s Bandit, with $806,655.

“She’s a one in a million horse,” said Iannotta. “I never would be where I am today without [the Robbs] in so many ways, and we’re such good friends on top of it all.

Fille d’Esprit is out of the Pouloses’ homebred mare Sweet Valor (No Armistice), who won twice in 14 starts. Fille d’Esprit is her first foal. She’s also produced winners Sweet Asta (Nicanor) and Sweet Syntax (Editorial). Her most recently reported foal is a 2-year-old filly by Blofeld named Cross of Valor.

“Who would have thought that a mare bred by Sweet Spirit Stables would have the success Fille has had on the track, and now is being sent to such an exciting stallion?” said Gail Poulos. “We are so honored to have played a part in her journey and we wish the Robbs all the best.”

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