The nine sophomore fillies entered in Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland are a quality bunch. Eight of them are stakes winners, and six have prevailed at the graded stakes level.
But for all their accomplishments, what they lack is early speed. None of these fillies want anything to do with racing on the lead, which means the pace of this 1 1/8-mile turf test could be slow and favorable to whichever runner(s) stumble into a dream trip on the front end.
Perhaps the main beneficiary will be #9 Regal Glory, the dead-heat winner of the Lake Placid Stakes (G2) at Saratoga, and one of three fillies in the field conditioned by top turf trainer Chad Brown. Regal Glory has at least shown the ability to stay in the same zip code as the pacesetters in any given race. The same goes for her stablemate, #3 Cambier Parc, who employed pace-tracking tactics to secure a third-place finish in the Belmont Oaks (G1) two starts back.
But the real threat to parlay a forwardly-placed trip into victory is the Godolphin homebred #5 Castle Lady, a high-profile shipper whose strong form to Keeneland.
Castle Lady hasn’t raced since June, when she ran evenly to finish a non-threatening fifth in the one-mile Coronation Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot behind longshot winner Watch Me, who has proven to be a very nice filly.
But two starts back Castle Lady defeated Watch Me by 2 3/4 lengths in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (G1, French One Thousand Guineas) at Longchamp. This admirable bit of classic-winning form marked Castle Lady’s third win from her first three starts and yielded a career-best 112 Racing Post Rating. In comparison, Cambier Parc has received ratings of 106 in her last three runs.
Castle Lady demonstrated tactical speed in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, where she stayed in touch with the early leaders and rallied smartly in the homestretch. Her regular rider, Mickael Barzalona, has made the trip to retain the mount, and with the possibility of a favorable pace setup in the offing, I’m optimistic Castle Lady will prove a cut above her rivals at Keeneland.
$11 to win on #5 Castle Lady
$5 exacta: 5 with 3
$2 trifecta: 5 with 3 with 6,7,8,9 ($8)
$3 trifecta: 5 with 6,7 with 3 ($6)