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Queen Elizabeth II to Yield Breeders' Cup Clues

By Jim Tierney, Special to Horse Racing Nation


The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot Racecourse is, arguably, the most important Group 1 mile turf race outside the United States.  The QE II is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series, which earns the winner an automatic invitation to compete in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.


Despite the fact that probable favorite Canford Cliffs, the sensational 3-year-old colt who garnered the Irish 2,000 Guineas, St. James Palace Stakes, and Sussex Stakes in succession after placing third in the English 2,000 Guineas, was withdrawn due to a possible throat infection, this year’s renewal of the QE II features two exceptional milers who are both Breeders’ Cup bound.


The top two choices are likely post-time favorite Makfi, winner of the English 2,000 Guineas and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last month where he defeated two-time defending Breeders’ Cup Mile champ Goldikova; and 4-year-old Rip Van Winkle, who won the Juddmonte International last month at York and was a solid second to Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes.


Rip Van Winkle is the defending QE II champ.


Canford Cliffs was not scheduled to compete in the Breeders’ Cup this year, but Makfi (Breeders’ Cup Mile) and Rip Van Winkle (either the Breeders’ Cup Mile or Breeders’ Cup Classic) will. Currently, Makfi is a 5/6 favorite in the QE II while Rip Van Winkle is 11/4.


Third choice is Godolphin’s Poet’s Voice (15/2) and fourth choice is Hearts of Fire (14/1).


History pervades the QE II Stakes with memorable winners such as Brigadier Gerard (1971-72), Rose Bowl (1975-76), Teleprompter (1984, who also won the 1985 Arlington Million), Markofdistinction (1990), Mark of Esteem (1996), Dubai Millennium (1999), George Washington (2006), and Raven’s Pass (2008).


Although QE II winners who have ventured stateside for the Breeders’ Cup haven’t fared well overall, there has been notable success in recent years. Consider the following QE II winners and their placements in the Breeders’ Cup Mile -- 1985: Shadeed (3rd); 1987: Milligram (13th); 1988: Warning (11th); 1989: Zilzal (6th); 1990: Markofdistinction (7th); 1993: Bigstone (6th); 1996: Mark of Esteem (7th); and 1998: Desert Prince (14th).


In 2003, QE II winner Falbrav competed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and finished a solid third and in 2008 the 1-2 finishers in the QE II – Raven’s Pass and Henrythenavigator – snared the top two spots, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. Last year Rip Van Winkle competed in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and finished a dismal 10th.


So it’s a guessing game as to how the QE II winner will perform at the Breeders’ Cup. But make no mistake: tomorrow’s QE II matches two of the best turf milers in the world in Makfi and Rip Van Winkle and is, undoubtedly, the International Race of the weekend.



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Older Comments about Queen Elizabeth II to Yield Breeders' Cup Clues...

Great race in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot today. Race favorite, and 2009 Q.E.II winner, Rip Van Winkle, was beaten in an extremely tight photo finish by the Godolphin colt Poet's Voice. Poet's Voice came into the race off of a win at Goodwood in the G2 totesport.com Celebration Mile. Rip Van Winkle won the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York back in August. Against a stellar field of competition. Defeating 3rd place finisher in the 09' Classic, Twice Over, by a nose. But Rip Van Winkle has since been well beaten by his stablemate, Cape Blanco, in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, and in today's Q.E.II Stakes at Ascot. Cape Blanco is the Ballydoyle 3yr.old who has won the G2 Dante Stakes at York. The G1 Irish Derby at the Curragh. And was 2nd to Harbinger in the G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Trainer Aidan O'Brien commented after Rip Van Winkle's loss in the Q.E.II today that "they will have to sit down and evaluate whether or not to send Rip back to America for this year's Breeders Cup." I think it's much more likely that we're going to see his stablemate, Cape Blanco, in this year's Classic instead. The Irish Champion Stakes is a "Breeders Cup Challenge win and your in" race. So Cape Blanco already has the automatic victory to gain entry into the Classic. Cape Blanco destroyed Rip Van Winkle, Twice Over, Sea Lord, Beethoven, and Famous Name in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes. Rip Van Winkle finished a very distant 2nd to his stablemate in that race, with Twice Over a distant 3rd.
Did get to see the impressive victory posted by Rip Van Winkle in the Juddmonte. Quite a performance and he looks better than ever. Certainly the one to beat tomorrow. Seems the C team from Europe have been handling the A team from North America pretty well this past Summer. Imagine what their A and B teams will bring come Breeders Cup. Nice recap on the recent history of the QE II.

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