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Bit of Whimsy and Javier Castellano after winning the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
With just two weeks before the Breeders' Cup, most possible entrants have already run their final preps and are training up to the big weekend. However, there is still plenty of stakes action around the country, especially at Keeneland during its prestigious Fall Meet. One of the traditional features at the Lexington oval in October is the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G3), an invitational for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. A crowd of 18,271 was on hand on Saturday afternoon, when a field of nine faced the starter in the main event. 2006 champion juvenile filly Dreaming of Anna was sent off as the lukewarm 2-1 favorite, coming off three consecutive wins including the Pucker Up at Arlington last out.
|Bit of Whimsy (outside) passes Dreaming of Anna in the stretch|
As expected, new jockey Garrett Gomez sent Dreaming of Anna to the front right away and she was quickly joined for a pace duel by Coquerelle to her outside. The pair set fractions of 24.08, 47.66, 1:11.24, and 1:36.02 over the firm course, with 39-1 longest shot Street Sounds stalking them in third for the first 6 furlongs. With a furlong to go, Dreaming of Anna had opened up a 2 1/2 length advantage over Coquerelle and looked homefree, but 7-1 Bit of Whimsy, who had raced back in sixth saving ground along the rail early, had hit her best stride at the top of the lane, came wide into the stretch and was quickly closing the gap with a strong late move on the outside. Bit of Whimsy caught Dreaming of Anna at the 1/16 pole and drew away from the tiring favorite to prevail by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:48.73. It was a length back from Dreaming of Anna to Coquerelle in third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 1 Bit of Whimsy Castellan 15.80 5.40 3.20 7 Dreaming of Anna Gomez 4.00 3.00 6 Coquerelle Lemaire 3.80 Winning Time: 1:48.73 $2 Exacta 1-7 65.60 $0.50 Trifecta 1-7-6 79.10 $2 Superfecta 1-7-6-8 958.60
Bit of Whimsy in the winner's circle. Her trainer Barclay Tagg (far left of photo) said, "We were tempted to run her one more time before this, but we thought we'd better have a fresh horse rather than an experienced one. I had a good jockey on her. I thought if he could take her back a little bit, she'd make a big run, and it worked out just perfectly. This filly kind of likes to run up close, or always has, and I just thought for this race, she'd better come from off of it. So did Javier, fortunately, and it worked out really good."
Bit of Whimsy in the post parade. Her jockey Javier Castellano said, "The first thing (Barclay Tagg) said was he wanted me to take a hold of her today. We handicapped the race together and saw a lot of speed in the race. We wanted to take her back a little bit and let her finish."
Second place finisher and beaten favorite Dreaming of Anna in the paddock with owner Frank Calabrese looking on from the left. Her jockey Garrett Gomez said, "She ran real well. She got pressured the whole way and never got a breather. She's a quality filly and I was glad for the opportunity to ride her. She kicked on a little bit (at the head of the stretch), but I could tell I needed just a little bit more to get her home. The gas tank was kind of hitting on empty. Outside the 1/16 pole, she kept digging and digging and fighting them off. (Bit of Whimsy) got her, but she still dug in. She had to work hard to even hold second. She ran a very good race."
Third place finish Coquerelle returns after the race. Her jockey Christophe Lemaire said, "She was a little bit fresh, a little keen. It was difficult for her to negotiate the last turn. It's a little sharper than what she's used to and she changed legs (leads) several times. She ran well down the stretch, but the energy she used during the race, she paid for it at the end."
Down the stretch in the Perryville with Steve's Double out front
Shrewd Operator was gunned to the lead exiting the chute and he set fractions of 22.88 and 45.38 down the backstretch while stalked by 8-1 Shihulykee. 12-1 Steve's Double followed the pacesetting duo five wide most of the way. Entering the stretch, Shrewd Operator continued to lead while Shihulykee faded from contention, but Steve's Double had closed the gap and drew even with the pacesetter at the 1/8 pole. Shrewd Operator weakened late but Les Grand Trois, who had raced back in sixth early, was closing with a rush after a seven-wide move into the stretch. However, Steve's Double dug in late to hold off the favorite by 1/2 a length in 1:25.36. It was another 1 3/4 length back to Shrewd Operator in third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 6 Steve's Double Theriot 26.00 9.00 6.20 4 Les Grands Trois Desormeaux 3.00 2.40 1 Shrewd Operator Albarado 3.80 Winning Time: 1:25.36 $2 Exacta 6-4 67.80 $0.50 Trifecta 6-4-1 84.45 $2 Superfecta 6-4-1-8 1925.40
Steve's Double in the winner's circle. His trainer Ronny Werner (on the far right) said, "I've been very pleased with him. He just keeps going forward and just moving up the ladder, which that's what you're looking for. He earned (the victory) today. (There were a) nice group of colts (in the race), and we were pleased with the outcome."
Steve's Double parades after the win. His jockey Jamie Theriot said of his third stakes win of the meet, "I'm riding good horses for good people, and everything's clicking today. I had a good trip today. We were in stalking position. When I called on him, he was there for us."
Second place finisher and beaten favorite Les Grands Trois in the post parade. His jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "We got pinched a little bit at the break, but that was the only incident I had. I thought the pace was honest. The winner just didn't come back."
Third place finisher Shrewd Operator in the paddock. His jockey Robby Albarado said, "He ran well. He settled in easy on the lead, and when I asked him to run, he punched it. But he just couldn't match strides with the winner today."
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