Queen Goddess had never shown much of an affinity for racing outside of California, where she has never once finished worse than third.
But the 5-year-old mare put her East Coast issues to rest Saturday with a 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Invitational at Gulfstream Park.
Queen Goddess and jockey Luis Saez ruled the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, holding off 9-5 program favorite Shantisara for the victory, her first outside California, with Lady Rockstar 2 3/4 lengths in third.
“She ran pretty big,” Saez said. “Today she proved she’s a beautiful and special filly. We knew she had a lot of speed but inside they had speed, too, so the plan was to try to follow the speed and be right behind, and everything went according to plan. It was perfect.”
Trained by Michael McCarthy for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber, Queen Goddess – sent off at odds of 4-1 - improved her record to six wins in 11 career starts. But it was her first race east of the Mississippi River in which she finished better than fifth.
Aron Wellman, president and founder of Eclipse Thoroughbreds, said the trip east was never a concern when the decision was made to send Queen Goddess to South Florida for the Pegasus.
“She’s matured,” Wellman said. “She’s a filly we always thought would get better with age. The two times we sent her east were a very ambitious run in the Queen Elizabeth (G1 at Keeneland) and a dirt try in the Bayakoa (G3 at Oaklawn Park). She wasn’t quite ready for it. Today we felt good about our chances.”
Queen Goddess entered Saturday’s stakes off a convincing 2 1/2-length victory in the Robert Frankel (G3) at Santa Anita on Dec. 31.
#6 QUEEN GODDESS ($10.40) wins the Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Stakes (GIII). @luissaezpty with another winner, this time aboard for Michael McCarthy.
The Pegasus World Cup Turf Stakes (GI) is up next! Watch it on @fandueltv and wager at https://t.co/nBYFHiPrdh. pic.twitter.com/pupbdVa2od— TVG (@TVG) January 28, 2023
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard Shantisara, said his mare broke slowly, forcing him to “drop in and wait” in the early stages.
“I could have made the first move outside, but I didn’t want to,” Ortiz said. “I followed some horses. The winner opened up on me, but my filly was closing.”