• TEAM BROWN LOOKING FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE QE II WIN
• LEIGH COURT FACES TOUGHEST TEST IN QE II
• CLOSING-DAY HAGYARD FAYETTE ATTRACTS 32 NOMINATIONS
• GALLOPING OUT
Nutmeg Stable’s Madame Giry gave trainer Cam Gambolati his first Keeneland victory a year ago when she won the Buffalo Trace Franklin County by 2½ lengths.
The bid for a repeat victory comes this afternoon, and Gambolati believes the waters are a bit deeper this time around.
“It is much tougher than last year,” Gambolati said Friday morning. “There are four or five quality fillies. You’ve got speed, you’ve got closers and you have stakes winners that have won on turf, dirt and Polytrack.”
Madame Giry has won her past two races in a 2013 campaign that was sidetracked early in the year.
“She had a minor injury to an ankle after her race at Tampa (in January) and that accounts for the gap in her past performances,” Gambolati said. “When I did bring her back, it was against the boys (in July) because there weren’t any other races for her.”
Finding stakes for a turf sprint specialist such as Madame Giry is a challenge for Gambolati.
“There just aren’t a lot of stakes out there. This race today should be a Grade 3,” Gambolati said noting the depth of the field. “On the East Coast in the summer, there will be three or four stakes (for the same type of horses) within 10 days of each other and they get short fields.
“For her, there are not a lot of options. At Saratoga there were two overnight stakes. Monmouth had one or two and Belmont had one and if it rains the race comes off the grass, you are stuck with nowhere to run.”
TEAM BROWN LOOKING FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE QE II WIN
The Tuesday arrival of Martin S. Schwartz’s Alterite (FR) at Keeneland to prepare for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) on Saturday marked the first time that Baldo Hernandez, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, had seen her. Based on his impression, the 3-year-old filly is on track to become Brown’s second consecutive QE II winner following Dayatthespa last year.
“I think we’re in good shape,” said Hernandez, who saddled Kitten Kaboodle to win Wednesday’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) for Brown, who has remained at his Belmont Park base. “I think she’s going to prove she can run really well.”
By Literato, Alterite began her career in France, where she was Group 1-placed and finished sixth to Treve in the Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks) (G1) on June 16. Alterite came to the U.S. and won the Garden City (G1) at Belmont on Sept. 14. (Finishing sixth in that race was Grade 1 winner Emollient, who returned to win the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster here last Sunday.) On Sunday, Treve won the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1).
John Velazquez, who rode Alterite in the Garden City, will be aboard the filly in the QE II. Velazquez has two wins in the race, on Perfect Arc in 1995 and Alwajeeha in 2008.
“She’s a special filly. She’s really nice,” Hernandez said about Alterite. “I think she’s going to run
big on Saturday.”
Schwartz has won six stakes at Keeneland, including two with French-bred fillies. His Lady of Venice (FR) took the 2006 Appalachian, and his Gorella (FR) won the 2006 First Lady (G2). Schwartz scored a Grade 1 win here in 2006 when Asi Siempre won the Juddmonte Spinster.
LEIGH COURT FACES TOUGHEST TEST IN QE II
In her eight-race career, Melnyk Racing Stable’s Leigh Court has successfully navigated every new challenge sent her way.
First start on dirt: win by 3¼ lengths. First start on Polytrack: win by two lengths. First start on turf: win by three-quarters of a length.
“We liked her from the first time Mr. (Eugene) Melnyk sent her to us,” trainer Josie Carroll said by phone from Woodbine.
On Saturday, Leigh Court will face her biggest test yet when she takes on eight rivals in the 30th running of the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.
Riding a three-race win streak, Leigh Court won the Ontario Colleen (G3) going a mile in August and in her most recent start won the La Lorgnette by 5¼ lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack.
“I am not sure what her best surface is and I am not sure about her limitations,” Carroll said. “The mile and a sixteenth was a concern the last time, but she handled it well.”
Gary Boulanger, who has ridden Leigh Court in her past four starts, will have the mount Saturday and break from post position eight.
“It has been a good combination,” Carroll said of the pairing of horse and rider that has produced three wins and a second. “She is growing up and Gary sits quietly on her and they get along well.”
Leigh Court, a daughter of Grand Slam, has put together her win streak in gate-to-wire fashion and she figures to be the speed of the speed Saturday.
“I don’t expect to see her anywhere else,” Carroll said. “But she doesn’t have to be on the lead. In her debut she came from out of it and in her second start she got bumped around and still ran very well. If she does not break well tomorrow, I would not be overly concerned.”
CLOSING-DAY HAGYARD FAYETTE ATTRACTS 32 NOMINATIONS
Lael Stables and All In Stable’s Willcox Inn, winner of the Washington Park Handicap (G3) on Polytrack at Arlington Park on Aug. 31 and third in last Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) that was rained off the grass, is the top name with Keeneland experience of 32 horses nominated to the 56th running $200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2) scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26, closing day of the 17-day fall meet.
Trained by Mike Stidham, Willcox Inn became a millionaire Saturday with his run in the Shadwell over a surface in which he finished third in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in 2010 and eighth as the third choice in the 2011 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Also among the nominees are Nikki’s Sandcastle, runner-up to Newsdad in last year’s Fayette, and Salto (IRE), fourth as the favorite in last year’s race.
Other graded stakes winners on Polytrack among the nominees are Winning Cause, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (G3) here this spring, and Eagle Poise, winner of the 2011 Valedictory (G3) at Woodbine.
Through the first five days of the 17-day fall meet, Ken and Sarah Ramsey lead all owners with six wins. The Ramseys won 12 races during the 2012 fall meet to equal the fall meet record for victories set by Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Roberts in 1968. During this year’s spring meet, the Ramseys won a record 25 races. …
Otto Draper, who was the exercise rider for 1988 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Winning Colors, earned his first Keeneland victory as a trainer Thursday when he sent out Epona Racing LLC’s 18-1 longshot Key to Fame to win the sixth race. Marcelino Pedroza Jr. rode the 4-year-old Kela gelding, who won the 1 1/8-mile race by a half-length in 1:52.20.