Crown Queen Keeps Getting Better

By Tom LaMarra

Crown Queen, who has done nothing wrong in four starts this year, came out of the Oct. 11 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland in good order but remained on the fence for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.

The 3-year-old Smart Strike filly owned by Besilu Stables has been impressive this year for trainer Bill Mott. She broke her maiden at one mile on the turf at Belmont Park, won an entry-level allowance race at 1 3/16 miles on the grass at Saratoga Race Course, and then squeezed out a win in the Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf at Saratoga.

Crown Queen wins the 2014 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup - Anne M. Eberhardt - Order This Photo

Crown Queen, out of Delta Princess and thus a half sister to champion Royal Delta, finished third in her two starts at 2 last year.

"Everything is fine," assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset told Keeneland officials Oct. 12. "She ate everything and she looks good this morning. We're in good shape."

Owner Ben Leon and Mott will make the decision on whether Crown Queen will face older rivals in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, which is run at 1 1/4 miles. Brisset said plans call for the filly to remain in training next year, when the Breeders' Cup will be held at Keeneland.

"We know she loves the course," he said.

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Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund for Johnny Morris (unable to attend) with Michael Straight and members of the jockey colony at Keeneland on October 12, 2014. Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt 

The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund was presented with a check for $4,120 by Keeneland president and chief executive officer Bill Thomason after the fourth race Oct. 12.

The PDJF, which assists about 60 jockeys who have suffered catastrophic injuries, has paid out more than $5 million to help permanently disabled riders. The organization has picked up support through various fundraisers but continues to seek a permanent funding source.

On hand at Keeneland for the event was former jockey Michael Straight, who was paralyzed in a racing accident at Arlington Park in 2009. Straight has a passion for learning more about spinal injuries and assists the PDJF whenever he can.

Straight, at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, became the first rider to use Ekso Bionics' exoskeleton, which allows him and others to stand and walk.

The PDJF picked up more support from the Oct. 13 "Chipping in for Johnny" golf tournament, which also benefits Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation and the John Morris Foundation. Morris, son of Thoroughbred Owners of California executive director Joe Morris, was paralyzed in an accident in 2012.

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Through the first eight days of the fall meet (through Oct. 12), field size at Keeneland has averaged 8.62 horses per race, down from 9.82 for the first eight programs during the 2013 fall meet, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

The current meet is the first on the new dirt surface. Last fall the main surface was Polytrack.

Two-year-old races have fared better when it comes to field size. There have been 26 juvenile races this fall (33.8% of all races) with an average of 9.23 horses per race. Last fall there were 25 juvenile races (32.9% of all races) with an average of 9.72 horses per race.

Purses this fall have averaged $879,019 per day for the first eight days versus $794,420 for the first eight days in 2013, according to TLCIS.

There are eight racing days remaining for the meet, which ends Saturday, Oct. 25. Thus far, total pari-mutuel handle is down roughly $5 million from last fall.

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