By Margaret Ransom
Lael Stables’ British-bred Magic Attitude, making her second North American start and first since capturing the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) by 2 ½ lengths three weeks ago, will square off against eight other sophomore fillies in Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1T on Saturday at Keeneland.
The Arnaud Delacour-trained daughter of Galileo is the 5-2 choice on the morning line and will have Javier Castellano back in the saddle.
The QE II was first contested in 1984 and named in honor of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, who attended the races at Keeneland while on a visit to central Kentucky and the local horse farms in the area. The monarch presented the trophy to the winning connections that year.
The Keeneland fall turf feature received graded status in 1986 and has been a Grade 1 since 1991. And while it hasn’t been necessarily a key prep for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), it has produced a significant number of starters for the race, as well as year-end championships in female turf divisions. A year ago, Cambier Parc was victorious, though she skipped the Breeders’ Cup, and joined a list of amazing past winners, such as Together, Vacare, Ticker Tape, Riskaverse, Affluent, Ryafan, La Guerriere and Plenty of Grace. Both Perfect Sting and Dayatthespa won this race en route to a Breeders’ Cup win and Eclipse Awards at the end of the year.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez’s name appears five times in this race’s history as leading rider, while three trainers – John Veitch, James Toner and Chad Brown – have had three winners each.
It’s likely to rain on Saturday thanks to Hurricane Delta, so prepare for a very soft turf course and a wet main Keeneland track, though the temperature will be warm and in the lower 70s.
The 1 1/8-mile grass feature has been set as the ninth race with a 5:30 p.m. ET post time. The field:
Lucky Seven Stable’s Opening Verse Stakes winner Crafty Daddy and Grade 2 winner Mr. Freeze are among the 10 runners set to contest Saturday’s Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keenland. The 1 1/8-mile main track test carries a purse of $200,000 and will be run for the 63rd time this year.
The Fayette Stakes is named for Fayette County, Kentucky, of which the city of Lexington is located. Title sponsor Haygard is the world-renowned equine hospital, where the Davidson Surgery and McGee Medical Centers (formerly the Haygard-Davidson-McGee Equine Clinic) are based.
Handicap division leader Tom’s d’Etat won this race a year ago and added his name to a prestigious list that includes Wise Dan, Successful Dan, Midway Road, Arch, Isitingood, Judge T C, Summer Squall, Lac Ouimet and more. Don Brumfeld remains the stakes race’s leading rider with five wins and Neil Howard has tightened the girth on four winners throughout his career.
Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Mr Freeze was second in this race last year yet hasn’t won a race in three starts since the Gulfstream Park Mile (G2) in late February. He is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Alysheba (G2) on Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs. Dale Romans trains the son of To Honor and Serve, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
Crafty Daddy had a productive turf career up until the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs was moved to the main track due to weather. So now trainer Kenny McPeek has put the gelded son of Scat Daddy back in a dirt race hoping for a repeat victory. Brian Hernandez Jr. Will be back aboard on Saturday.
The Haygard Fayette has been carded as the day’s 8th on a 10-race program with a 4:57 p.m. ET post time. The field:
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.