The highlight of the Saturday card at Keeneland is the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (Gr. 1) with a post time of 5:30 PM EST. This race is run on the turf at a distance of one and one eighth miles for Three-Year-Olds and is the feature of a 10 race card.
The favorite going into the race is the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Sentiero Italia (6/5 ML), a three-year-old filly who has won her last two graded stakes races. In August she won the Maker’s Mark Lake Placid Stakes (Gr.2) at Saratoga and followed it up in September with a 3¾ length victory in the Sands Point Stakes (Gr. 2) at Belmont Park. Veteran jockey, Joel Rosario, will once again be in the irons and recent works have been fast. She looks tough to beat in this spot.
Miss Temple City (5/1 ML) is hoping the third time will be the charm as she has watched Sentiero Italia win the past two races both were entered. Miss Temple City, a H. Graham Motion trainee, has not missed the board in races run in North America. She ran second to Sentiero Italia in the Maker’s Mark Lake Placid Stakes and then finished third in the Sands Point as she was run down at the wire by a hard charging Blond Me. Motion is bringing in young California jockey, Drayden Van Dyke to ride her at Keeneland on Saturday. Will a rider change make a difference for Miss Temple City? Recent workouts have been slow but Motion has a knack getting strong efforts on the turf.
The aforementioned Blond Me (8/1 ML), an Irish filly, was tearing up the European circuit earlier this year before shipping to the US prior to the Sands Point where she charged late and got up for second behind Sentiero Italia. This is only her second North American start, but she finished first or second in her four previous European starts prior to the Sands Point. Junior Alvarado will be in the irons as he was in her previous start and will look to make a statement over the Keeneland turf.
Could a German invader make a difference on Saturday? The hot trainer/jockey combo of Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz, Jr. will make the trip from the New York circuit with Olorda (15/1 ML), a horse who has made only one start on U.S. soil. In July, she ran the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (Gr. 1) and made a run into the third position at the one mile mark, before tiring and fading down the stretch. Brown has shown the ability to get his horses ready in this type of spot and with this being her second start since he assumed her training, as well as a ninety plus day layoff to prepare, this might be the horse that surprises come Saturday if she is ready for the distance.
While Sentiero Italia is a logical favorite given her recent success, there are a number of horses who could challenge her this Saturday and the European imports have a history of success in US turf races. Blond Me, with her closing ability, looks to be a logical upset contender, but if you are looking for a longer shot, consider Olorda.
Let’s go cash some tickets!