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Guineas, was withdrawn due to a possible throat infection, this year’s renewal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.