The nine horse field assembled for the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes is so deep in talent there is not one filly who cannot win the race.
The field is led by Cambier Parc, one of only two horses in the field to have won at the highest level, having done so in August when victorious in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. Third place Oaks finisher Lady Prancealot (IRE) won the Grade 3 Honeymoon Stakes prior to that and fits on all counts as well. Varenka and Regal Glory came together on the wire in a dead head for the win in the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes this summer at Saratoga and are two more tremendously talented fillies.
Princesa Carolina won the mile and five-sixteenths Dueling Ground Oaks Stakes last month on the European style Kentucky Downs course, one race after coming up a couple of lengths short of the win in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes, won by Café Americano.
Then there is Her Majesty the Queen's Magnetic Charm (GB), who finished second in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes in her North American debut last month. It goes without saying (though I will say it anyway) it would be tremendous if Her Majesty the Queen's horse won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes. Then there's Castle Lady (IRE), making her North American debut today, the only other filly with a win at the highest level when victorious in the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches Stakes in France this past May. Kelsey's Cross rounds out the field, having finished third in three stakes races this spring and summer including when third behind Cambier Parc in the Wonder Again Stakes in June.
I'm going to give Castle Lady (IRE) top billing, admitting I may have fallen for a European import once again in spite of seeing my pick in last week's Shadwell Turf Mile, Vintager, run poorly. Castle Lady (IRE) won the first three starts of her career, with a strong 108 Equibase Speed Figure in the Prix de la Grotte Stakes at a mile in April and an even stronger performance when gamely winning by a nose in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches Stakes in May. That effort earned the filly a 117 figure, which is tops in the field, before a poorer fifth of nine finish in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Rested since that race, Castle Lady (IRE) gets first time lasix and her regular jockey, Mickael Barzalona, comes along as he's familiar with her. Using STATS Race Lens, I ran a query on horses in graded stakes turf routes making their U.S. debut on Lasix in the past year and the results were eye-opening, with those 66 horses having won 10 times but paying nicely when they did win, resulting in a 32% profit on win bets on all 66 runners. As such, if Castle Lady (IRE) rebounds back to the form shown in the spring, she has every chance to win this year's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes.
Lady Prancealot (IRE) started her career in the United Kingdom, winning one of five starts. Her first start in the states came in September, 2018 and it was a big effort as she finished second in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes and in the Surfer Girl Stakes. Two races after a 14th place finish in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Lady Prancealot (IRE) won in February with a then career-best 101 figure, before close-up third and second place finishes in stakes. Her breakout race of 2019 came in June when victorious in the Honeymoon Stakes with a 104 figure, which she repeated when third behind Cambier Parc in the Del Mar Oaks in August. In the Oaks, Lady Prancealot (IRE) was about four positions and four lengths behind Cambier Parc when both began to pick up the tempo but she could not out finish her rival and was beaten one and three-quarter lengths at the end. The factor which could help Lady Prancealot (IRE) reverse that finish with Cambier Parc in this race, and perhaps help her to win, is she draws the rail for the Queen Elizabeth II instead of the 10 post she had in the Oaks, whereas Cambier Parc had the rail for the Oaks and gets a post outside Lady Prancealot (IRE) for this race.
Cambier Parc has won four of six turf races in her career, all but one a stakes race. She has a perfect two-for-two record at this nine furlong trip and was ridden to perfection in the Del Mar Oaks by John Velazquez, who was in the saddle for the first time and who rides her again in the Queen Elizabeth II. Cambier Parc earned a career-best 107 figure in the Oaks which is the best last race figure in the field and so if no other horse improves markedly and she just repeats the effort, she can win.
Notes about the rest: Princesa Carolina earned a career-best 105 figure winning the Dueling Grounds Oaks last month, a four point improvement over the 101 figure earned when second in the Pucker Up Stakes one month earlier. Café Americano won the Pucker Up with a career-best 105 figure and has been rested since, likely pointing to this race. She also won off a freshening in June so she may run her best race to date in this situation.
Varenka and Regal Glory both ran phenomenally well when dead-heating in the Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga on August 17, earning 100 figures which is slightly lower than the previously mentioned contenders. However, between the two talented fillies comes eight wins in 15 races, mostly in stakes.
Her Majesty the Queen's Magnetic Charm (GB) was four lengths behind the winner of the Canadian Stakes in her North American debut last month but gamely held that position by a nose with a 99 figure which bears improvement second off the layoff and making her second start in North America. As I wrote at the start of this opening paragraph, there's not a horse who cannot win and that includes Kelsey's Cross as these connections (trainer Biancone and jockey Leparoux) nearly pulled off the upset last Saturday with Diamond Oops in the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes.
Although Kelsey's Cross earned a career-best 95 figure in her most recent race, which would not be good enough to win if any of the other eight repeated their most recent figures, she is not without a chance as she has put in two significant six furlong workouts coming into the race and her stablemate Diamond Oops had the same two workouts on his past performances before nearly winning the Shadwell Turf Mile last week.
Castle Lady (IRE)
Lady Prancealot (IRE)
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