Saturday’s feature at Keeneland is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1). The nine-furlong event for three-year-old fillies drew a solid field of nine, including a trio of young ladies from the Chad Brown barn. Brown captured the event last year with Rushing Fall and holds another strong hand in the 2019 rendition.
#3 Cambier Parc is the 8-5 morning line favorite in her first start off a near two-month freshening. When last seen, the $1.25 million Keeneland September 2017 purchase for Oxo Equine LLC sat midpack early as the 6-5 chalk in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) before swinging wide into the lane and getting the best of the field of 13. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro is the clear one to beat, but the lack of early zip signed on and the short price make her worth taking a shot against.
#6 Cafe Americano has not been seen crushing a field of 11 in the Pucker Up (G3) at Arlington Park in mid-August. The Peter Brant-owned gal has done little wrong winning three of four lifetime tries, but lacks early speed. In her lone effort versus Grade 1 company, the $625,000 Keeneland September purchase finished a midpack sixth in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1). She will offer significantly more value than her stablemate Cambier Parc, but I am concerned the lack of pace will hurt her chances unless Irad Ortiz Jr. is more aggressive from the gate than he was in Chicago.
#9 Regal Glory completes the Brown trio. The daughter of Animal Kingdom has never finished worse than second, including five wins in seven career starts. However, her BRIS speed ratings have declined significantly since the spring making one wonder if she may have peaked earlier in the year.
#4 Princesa Carolina has only won three of 11 for trainer Kenny McPeek, but her numbers are competitive with this bunch. The Three Chimneys Farm homebred has not flashed speed from the gate in her last several, but did take a field wire-to-wire over this course back in April. I am hopeful that jockey Jose Ortiz will be aggressive and take control early on at a big price. At 15-1 on the line this daughter of Tapit is worth a gamble in Saturday’s feature.
A pair of European based horses are the wild cards in the 2019 QEII Challenge Cup. #5 Castle Lady has been off since June where she finished fifth in the Coronation Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, but prior to that she was a perfect three-for-three. The Godolphin filly gets Lasix for the initial time. #7 Magnetic Charm finished second over yielding going at Woodbine in the Canadian (G2) against older fillies and mares. Her Majesty the Queen does not send horses over to the States often and while this one has only two wins coming into Saturday, she offers solid value at anything near her 12-1-morning line. Perhaps a little give in the ground will benefit both of their chances.
#1 Lady Prancealot and #8 Varenka both have the ability to run on late for a share, but the race shape does not appear to favor them. #2 Kelsey’s Cross takes a big step in up class after a neck-victory against allowance foes at Gulfstream Park. She will need to move forward significantly to contend.
$20 Win 4
$4 Exacta Box 4+5 = $8
$4 Exacta Box 4+7 = $8
Total Budget $36
Princesa Carolina wins the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs (Coady Photography)