By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
With just three weeks remaining until the 2019 Breeders'
Cup at Santa Anita, I was tempted to kick off coverage of the much-anticipated championship
event with an early look at the major players in each race.
But then I saw the field for Saturday's $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
(gr. I) at Keeneland, and I changed my mind. This 1 1/8-mile grass race for
three-year-old fillies has drawn an excellent field with eight stakes winners
and six graded stakes winners. From top to bottom, it's a high-quality race.
Even better, I think there's a lot of potential for nice payoffs in this
I'll concede that #3
Cambier Parc (8-5) is a deserving favorite in the Queen Elizabeth II
Challenge Cup. I've been a big fan of this Chad Brown-trained filly, who
unleashed a powerful turn-of-foot to defeat stablemate Newspaperofrecord in the
1 1/8-mile Wonder Again Stakes (gr. III) three starts back.
Cambier Parc has done little wrong in two starts since
then. After employing pace-tracking tactics to finish third in the 1 ¼-mile
Belmont Oaks (gr. I) behind division standout Concrete Rose, Cambier Parc
bounced back against easier competition in the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Oaks (gr. I),
rallying strongly in the stretch to win going away by 1 ¼ lengths.
Cambier Parc has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to
finish fast, and she's also displayed enough tactical speed to suggest she can stay
within touch of the early leaders in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. This
is important since this race is severely lacking in pace players and figures to
unfold at a slow tempo.
But in my opinion, the filly who could really take
advantage of a slow pace is #5 Castle
Lady (7-2), a formidable Godolphin homebred bringing high-class form from
Trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, this daughter of Shamardal
opened her career with three straight victories in France. On each occasion,
she displayed tactical speed, staying in touch with the leaders before
accelerating to win.
Castle Lady's most notable triumph came in the Group 1 Poule
d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1,000 Guineas) at Longchamp, where she prevailed
by a nose over subsequent Prix de Diane (French Oaks) runner-up Commes.
Finishing 2 ¾ lengths back in sixth place was a filly named Watch Me.
Castle Lady subsequently disappointed in the Coronation
Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot, finishing mid-pack while failing to display her
typical tactical speed. But the form of her Poule d'Essai des Pouliches victory
still received a boost since the Coronation winner was Watch Me, who
subsequently reiterated her own class by finishing a close third in the
prestigious Prix de l'Opera Longines (Fr-I) at Longchamp.
Now the question is whether Castle Lady can rebound in
the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. She hasn't run since the Coronation, but
perhaps the time off will do her good. One thing seems certain—her classic-winning
form in France is a credit none of her Keeneland rivals can match, and in terms
of Racing Post Ratings, she looms as the filly to beat. Her regular jockey
Mickael Barzalano will retain the mount, and with a favorable pace setup in the
offing, I believe Castle Lady is the most likely winner.
For the exotics, I'm intrigued by #7 Magnetic Charm (12-1) as a live longshot. Owned by none other
than Queen Elizabeth II herself, Magnetic Charm has shown flashes of promise in
England, most notably finishing second by a neck in the one-mile Sandringham Stakes
at Royal Ascot, where she earned a 112 Racing Post Rating equal to Castle Lady's
But perhaps the most exciting bit of form Magnetic Charm
has displayed came in the Canadian Stakes (gr. II) at Woodbine last month, her
North American debut. Facing a deep field of older rivals, including the graded
stakes winners Starship Jubilee, Competitionofideas, and Holy Helena, Magnetic
Charm produced a nice rally from last place to finish second.
The possibility of a slow pace on Saturday could make it
difficult for Magnetic Charm to reach the winner's circle, but I think she's a great
candidate to use underneath while facing her own age group. If her 12-1 morning
line odds hold up, I would also consider playing her on top.
Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Queen
Elizabeth II Challenge Cup?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.