Another distaff G1 on turf, another success for trainer Chad Brown, who sent out Gina Romantica to win the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Saturday. Twenty-four hours earlier, Highland Chief had staked a claim for inclusion in the Breeders’ Cup Turf when running out a game-winner of the G3 Sycamore at the Kentucky circuit.
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1)
Romantica warms the heart
On a Saturday strewn with shock G1 results across the world, at Randwick, Caulfield, and Ascot, it should have come as no surprise that the US produced its own minor upset too, with Gina Romantica claiming her first win at the top-level in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, the highlight of Saturday’s action at Keeneland.
The 9-2 third-choice wasn’t an outsider but the fact that she got the better of odds-on favorite McKulick qualifies it as an upset, although trainer Chad Brown won’t have minded as he still signed for the exacta and a record fifth success in the race.
Gina Romantica broke on top before being steadied as Irish raider Paris Peacock went to the lead, but she was always close up and ran down the leader at the furlong pole, splitting horses before kicking on to win by a length and three-quarters, stopping the clock in 1:48 and one-fifth. Her barn mate McKulick rallied past second-choice Bellabel to take the second spot by a neck, as Paris Peacock faded to finish last of six.
“I actually was okay to lead, but the pace was fast so I got myself tucked in,” said jockey Flavien Prat. “She relaxed well, and turning for home I got a good gap and she responded really well.”
The Into Mischief filly started out on the main track but has thrived since switching to the lawn and is now four-for-seven lifetime, already earning more than half her $1.025m price tag as a yearling.
Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Horse Race Video
Sycamore Stakes (G3)
Chief’s in charge
Class came to the fore in the Sycamore on Friday, with G1 winner Highland Chief finding his way back to the winner’s circle with a determined display.
The 6-1 fourth-choice sat just off the steady fractions set by Accredit until getting a dream run up the rail at the top of the stretch. Soon in front, Highland Chief dug in gamely to hold on to his advantage as the posse closed in, crossing the line a length ahead of longshot Temple, with Highest Honors – who drew in off the also-eligible list – a neck back in third. The favorite Mira Mission faded to sixth, with the first eight home covered by just two lengths; the stopwatch showed 2:28 and four-fifths.
“I tried to save some ground and hoped he would come running,” said jockey John Velazquez. “I was just looking for some space at the quarter pole, and once I got it he was there for me.”
Trainer Graham Motion will now let Highland Chief take his chance back over course and distance in next month’s $4m G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Sycamore Stakes Horse Race Video
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