Race 9 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes
First run in 1984, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup has been a fall cornerstone of the Keeneland meet. The race is named after Queen Elizabeth II, who attended the races at Keenland and handed out the winning trophy on October 11th, 32 years ago. Notable winners of the race include Memories of Silver (1996), Film Maker (2003), and a personal favorite of mine Dayatthespa in 2012. This year, the race drew a strong, competive field of nine fillies looking to take home Grade 1 honors.
The morning line favorite is Catch a Glipmse (2-1) for trainer Mark Casse. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly Turf Champion of 2015 has done little wrong this year winning five of her six starts. She has won at distances of seven furlongs and then succesffully stretched her speed to the classic distance of a mile and a quarter. Her tactical speed makes her extrememly dangerous and breaking from the rail, I would expect her to use her speed to secure a front running postion. If she gets comfortable on lead, she could wire the field but I am expecting Stays in Vegas (12-1) to keep her company on the front end.
Stays in Vegas makes her Kentucky debut after spending most of her career in California. She is a Grade 3 winner on the turf an is coming off a solid third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. The class of this field exceeds what she has been running against out in Califonia, but Hollendorfer would not ship her if he thought she was not without a chance . Both these filles should run well in this spot but I will play against both for win honors.
Harmonize (8-1) is interesting in this race. The Bill Mott trainee flew down the lane last time out in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks and just got her head down at the wire to win her first Grade 1 event. The Scat Daddy filly has been a bit of a project for Mott this year as Mott added blinkers two starts back, an equipment change that seems to have sharpened her performance. She likes to come from a bit off the pace, a tactic that may work against her at Keeneland, as the turf course appears to be friendly to speed or stalking types. Harmonize has been beaten by of couple of the fillies in this race already this year. While she will be flying at the end, she may come up just a bit short at the wire. She is a logical contender for the exacta or trifecta.
Shug McGaughey has a live horse in this race with On Leave (5-1). The War Front filly only raced twice as a two-year-old but exploded on the track in 2016 winning all four of her races in impressive fashion. After breaking her maiden in June, she went on to win her first stakes race in August and then took the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont opening up by almost three lengths at the wire. She should sit a good stalking trip behind the early speed before making her move around the final turn. While she may lack the experience of some of the other fillies in this race, she is a supreme talent. Saturday may be the day that she wins her first Grade 1 event.
As for my key horse and one I will build my wagers around, I landed on Time and Motion (5-2) for trainer Jimmy Toner. After failing to win in three starts as a two-year-old, the Tapit filly has won four of her five starts in 2016. She has faced Catch a Glimpse three times in her career . Catch a Glipmse won the first two match-ups, but Time and Motion turned the tables on her rival in her last start, the Grade 2 Lake Placid. She has improved with each start this year and I expect John Velazquez to keep her close to Catch a Glimpse through the early parts of the race. While she took a bit longer to develop, I believe Time and Motion is the “now” horse and her Grade 1 winning performances start in this race.