Saturday, October 11, 2008
Velazquez Returns, Rides Alwajeeha To Upset Win In Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup
Lexington, Ky. (October 11, 2008)—Jockey John Velazquez returned to action Saturday at Keeneland after being injured in a fall eight days ago and guided Alwajeeha to an upset victory in the $500,000, Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.
The daughter of Dixieland Band caught Storm Mesa, the pacesetter, with a quarter of a mile remaining and then fought off the on-rushing Backseat Rhythm and My Princess Jess for the win.
“The filly did it great,” said Velazquez. “We wanted to be close to the lead. After that, every time I asked her for a little more she kept giving it to me. I was very, very impressed with her.”
Both Backseat Rhythm and My Princess Jess had finished in front of Alwajeeha in the Garden City, which was run on a yielding turf course. The turf was firm Saturday and Alwajeeha ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.09.
Alwajeeha is owned by Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Stable and is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. She showed her affinity for the Keeneland turf course in the spring by winning the Appalachian (G3) at one mile.
The winner paid $25.20, improved her record to three wins in nine starts and increased her earnings to $486,927 with the winner’s purse of $310,000. She had been winless in three starts since the Appalachian.
Velazquez had been away from competition since Friday, October 3, when his mount fell in the stretch at Keeneland. The multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey was removed from the track on a stretcher and hospitalized overnight.
“I’m very blessed that nothing really very serious happened to me,” said Velazquez. “Thanks to Keeneland and everybody at the hospital, they treated me very well, and they really took good care of me.”
In the supporting feature, Hatta Fort (GB) rallied from the back of the field under Julien Leparoux to score a narrow victory in the $200,000, Grade 3 Perryville (presented by Budweiser Select).
Still next to last with a quarter of a mile remaining, the son of Cape Cross (IRE) closed fast along the rail to defeat Amazing Results by a neck in the Beard Course race of seven furlongs, 184 feet. The time was 1:25.97.
“I knew we had to be lucky to win,” said Leparoux about his decision to come up the rail. “I could have tried to go outside, but Rene (Douglas on Amazing Results) was on the outside. I would have had to wait so I took a shot on the inside.”
It was three-quarters of a length back to third-place I’m So Lucky, the 13-10 favorite, in the field of 10 3-year-olds. Eaton’s Gift, who led into deep stretch, faded to fourth, three lengths back.
Hatta Fort, who began his career in Europe, won for the fourth time in 13 career starts and increased his earnings to $347,364 with the winner’s purse of $124,000. He paid $9.60.
The winner is owned by Godolphin Racing, Inc. and trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
Nickel Shooter suffered multiple fractures of the left front fetlock at the top of the stretch in the Perryville and was euthanized.
On the same day, Baroness Thatcher advertised her abilities for prospective buyers at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale by winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance race by a neck under Velazquez.
The 4-year-old filly by Johannesburg will be sold as Hip No. 562 by Eaton Sales, as agent for Zayat Stables. Baroness Thatcher won for the third time in 21 starts and increased her earnings to $531,889.
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