Photo: Heidi E. Carpenter
As per usual, Saturday’s 9-furlong, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup has attracted an excellent field to Kentucky’s Bluegrass. Year in, year out, the last chance saloon for three-year-old turf fillies to run against their own for a grade 1 prize proves to be one of my favorite races of the fall. Not only does Keeneland’s feature consistently serve as a summit for top fillies from the East, West, and Midwest, but it also never fails to attract an interesting international filly or two, as well. The fact that it’s depth of quality almost always makes it a good betting race doesn’t hurt at all, either. Let’s take a look at the strong lineup of young, distaff turfers from the rail out...
Sarach (10-1) One of eight stakes winners in the nine-horse field, Sarach has done little wrong since switching to the grass early in her career. Likely to chase the outside speed from her inside post, she may get first run as the field turns for home, but my guess is that she will fall just a little bit short in the class department.
Say (10-1) This Irish-bred runner from the Aidan O’Brien barn has run plenty of big races in Europe, as best evidenced by a good second place finish to the Beverly D winner, Dank in July. Having run against older mares in last eight races, she actually might find this fine bunch a bit of a class relief. Her first race in America was not her best, but now with blinkers and a prep under her belt, I look for her to fire big at attractive odds.
Caroline Thomas (12-1) The winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid by disqualification two starts back has little early speed. On occasion she has uncoiled a strong late run to run big, but her inconsistency in making a big dent makes me believe that she will have a hard time passing a majority of this classy field down the Keeneland lane.
Alterite (9-5) A solid runner in France, this new Chad Brown charge impressed greatly with a sharp win in the Grade 1 Garden City in her American debut. A repeat of that performance could well be enough to win this, but any bounce at all could leave the race favorite disappointing her many supporters.
Emotional Kitten (6-1) One of two from the smoking Ken and Sarah Ramsey barn in the field, she has been a very consistent turf runner, going 3-1-2 in her last six starts. While I prefer the explosive kick of her stablemate, she always puts herself in the game turning for home, and would be no surprise to be involved in the QE II finish.
Concise (12-1) This English-bred daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is 0-for-3 since being imported to the States, but don’t let that fool you. She has run well, and consistently better for trainer, Graham Motion, despite not getting any real pace to run into. Faster fractions on Saturday make her a very interesting longshot play.
Kitten’s Dumplings (3-1) If not for a disappointing 4th by 2 ½ lengths result in the Del Mar Oaks, this Mike Maker trained miss would likely be the favorite. A winner of three straight stakes races at Churchill and Saratoga before that, the daughter of Kitten’s Joy has been freshened and is a real threat to roll late and add yet another stakes win to owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s ever growing total.
Leigh Court (10-1) Much like the filly just to her outside, this Canadian shipper has proven a bear on the lead in recent starts. The winner of three straight stakes at Woodbine (one on grass, and two on Polytrack), has no choice but to see how far she can take them on the front end on Saturday. I think she will find these closer a little too much.
I’m Already Sexy (8-1) Comes in from Chicago on a turf roll. The winner of all three of her turf starts at Arlington Park this year, took things up a notch in her two most recent starts, winning the Hatoof and the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes in impressive front running fashion. With the speedy Canadian just to her inside, I will take a stand against her sticking around for the exacta, but would not be surprised if she runs a strong race.
The Play ($20)
$4 Exacta Box Say-Alterite
$3 Exacta Box Say-Kitten’s Dumplings
$2 Exacta Box Say-Concise
$1 Exacta Box Say-Emotional Kitten