Harmonize not afraid to take on heavy-hitters in QE II Challenge Cup

October 13, 2016 08:18am
Harmonize Jessamine 615 X 400
Photo: Keeneland Photo

With two Grade 1 winners, four Grade/Group 2 winners and one Grade 3 winner among the nine starters, Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1) has as strong a field as one could want.

“The Queen Elizabeth is always such a competitive race,” said Riley Mott, assistant to his father, Racing Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the 2014 QE II with Crown Queen. “It’s like a Breeders’ Cup race for 3-year-old fillies on the grass. It’s fun to be a part of.”

The Mott entrant in the QE II is one of the Grade 1 winners, Larkin Armstrong’s Harmonize, the winner of Keeneland’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) a year ago who is coming off a victory in the Del Mar Oaks Presented by The Jockey Club (G1). Five of her last six races have included either Canadian Horse of the Year Catch a Glimpse or Time and Motion.

“We went to California not only because it was a Grade 1 but we were getting out of the way of Time and Motion and Catch a Glimpse,” Mott said. “We killed two birds with one stone.”

Those heavy-hitters are here for the QE II. Harmonize and jockey Junior Alvarado, who has ridden her in her nine previous races, will break from post four.

“Our filly’s pretty versatile,” Mott said. “Junior knows her very well. She has a win over the course, so we’ll just play it from the break and see how it unfolds. She’s really matured and she’s training extremely well. We’re not afraid to take those other two on; we’re here to win.”

Armstrong purchased Harmonize for $80,000 at Keeneland’s 2014 September Yearling Sale. Her family includes Grade 2 winner Al Khali, also trained by Bill Mott. Her third dam is Chic Shirine, who in 1987 won Keeneland’s Ashland (G1) (now the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland) and is the ancestress of such Grade 1 winners as 2015 Travers (G1) winner Keen Ice.


Racing Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has notched eight of his 24 Keeneland stakes wins in Grade 1 races, but one Grade 1 that has eluded him is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End.

On Saturday, Stuart Janney III’s homebred On Leave will represent McGaughey’s first starter in the race since Starry Dreamer finished fourth in 1997.

“She just keeps getting better,” said Reeve McGaughey, assistant to his father, about On Leave. “She has won four straight and won in four different ways, but this is her toughest test yet.”

On Leave comes into Saturday’s race off a wire-to-wire score in the Sands Point (G2) at the QE II distance of 1 1/8 miles. All four of her victories have come this year following an eight-month layoff after completing a brief 2-year-old campaign last October.

“She just needed a little time to mature and it has worked out nicely,” McGaughey said of the layoff for On Leave, who is a half-sister to four graded stakes winners including Ironicus, who was a fast-closing second in last Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1).

The Janney-McGaughey combination could get off to a good start for the weekend Friday when Fair Point starts in the $100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) for fillies and mares going  5½ furlongs on the turf.

“She won a small stakes in her last start and she, too, is getting better and better,” McGaughey said. “She had worked on the grass at Payson (Park training center early in the year) and a couple of Dad’s assistants wanted to get her on the grass.”

Fair Point has responded with two victories and a second in her three grass starts with the win in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga coming at 5½ furlongs.


During his Racing Hall of Fame training career in which he trained 1978 Triple Crown runner-up and Blue Grass (G1) winner Alydar, John Veitch won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup a record three times.

Now Keeneland’s Assistant Paddock Judge, Veitch attributes his success in the race, a Grade 1, $500,000 stakes presented by Lane’s End and to be run Saturday, to the Galbreath family for whom he trained homebred winners Graceful Darby (the 1987 winner), Love You by Heart (1988) and Plenty of Grace (1990). John W. Galbreath established Darby Dan Farm in Lexington during the late 1950s and built a tradition of breeding superior racehorses that continues under the direction of his grandson John Phillips.

“It was the culmination of decades of the Galbreaths’ breeding program to have horses with endurance that could go a distance on turf instead of dirt,” Veitch said. “Most people don’t realize that in the 1950s and even in the early 1960s turf racing was minimal in the United States. The pedigrees of those horses and the endurance really paid off for the Galbreath family.”

Plenty of Grace and Graceful Darby represent the fourth generation of homebreds for the Galbreaths and share the same third dam, Soaring. Plenty of Grace is by Roberto; Graceful Darby is by Roberto’s son Darby Creek Road. The Galbreath clan bred the two stallions.

“It was a privilege to be associated with John Galbreath and all of his family,” Veitch said. “They gave me wonderful horses to work with. I had a strong sense of confidence with what I had to work with and with the emotional and financial support from the Galbreath family. It was always a great honor to be invited to Keeneland for the QE II because it became such a prestigious race from the very beginning.”

The family has a total of five wins in the QE II. Members also won the race in 1993 with Tribulation (a half-sister to Graceful Darby) and 1996 with Memories of Silver (a paternal granddaughter of Roberto). The breeding operation is represented in this year’s QE II by multiple graded stakes winner Time and Motion, a daughter of Tapit and a third-generation Galbreath family homebred on her maternal side. She is owned by Phillips Racing Partnership.


Yesterday during Keeneland’s first race, the connections of Blue Collar were only mildly surprised when the 2-year-old filly pulled off a 46-1 upset victory in her career debut in a one-mile race on the turf course.

“Her full sister Majestic Island won a race on the grass on Sept. 20, so we wanted to run her on the grass,” said trainer Bill Harrigan, who co-owns and -bred both fillies with Mike Pietrangelo of Memphis, Tenn.

Harrigan and his wife, Jill, own and operate 176-acre Miacomet Farm in Georgetown, Ky. While Harrigan specializes in conditioning horses for their future on-track careers, he and Pietrangelo maintain a 15-member broodmare band. The group includes Ushuaia, dam of the aforementioned winners.
“These fillies were born and raised at our farm and we know them well,” Harrigan said. “They are very people-friendly. It is a lot of fun to win a race at Keeneland, especially for the people who work at the barn, and it was great to have my wife and children (Luke and Lucy) in the Winner’s Circle.”

In Miacomet’s training division, horses receive their first lessons under saddle before shipping to Harrigan’s winter base at Payson Park in South Florida. Graduates of his training program include 2015 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) winner Harmonize, an entrant in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1), and recent Juddmonte Spinster (G1) winner I’m a Chatterbox.
Harrigan also sells horses at Keeneland. I’m a Chatterbox was part of his consignment when she was offered at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He was reunited with her the following summer when he readied her for winning her career debut at Keeneland. 

Source: Keeneland Association


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