2021 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content
By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)
1. BURNING AMBITION (6-1) – Has done little wrong in five starts, and simply blew away the opposition by seven lengths in the Indiana Grand Stakes last time. The quality of that field doesn’t compare to the one she faces here, obviously, but she’s long overdue for a hike in class and it’ll be interesting to see how she stacks up at the graded level. Cox/Geroux a potent combo, but their presence could certainly depress the price to less-than fair-value on a filly who hasn’t yet faced a field of this depth.
2. TECHNICAL ANALYSIS (4-1) – Has emerged as arguably Brown’s leading three-year-old turf filly with back-to-back scores in the two lesser of Saratoga’s three major stakes for the division. Indeed, aside from the one lackluster run in the Wonder Again (G3), she’s been quite dependable. She doesn’t stand out against these, though, and the European contingent is unusually strong for this renewal. In other words, wouldn’t accept too short a price if offered despite barn’s recent success in this race.
3. SHANTISARA (7-2) – Wasn’t making much headway on all-weather tracks in the French provinces last winter, but has turned into a relative bear on turf in this country. Has taken paths of lesser resistance in spots like the Pucker Up (G3) and Jockey Club Oaks (the latter of which was populated primarily by Sands Point [G2] types), but has looked good doing so and fits quite well. Ability to win at this distance and longer gives connections lots of options going forward, and a potential modest tempo should pose little difficulty for her. Perhaps the best of the domestic candidates.
4. EMPRESS JOSEPHINE (3-1) – A very good run last week in the First Lady (G1) when one length third behind a Chad Brown-trained pair of older mares. As with several of Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-olds this season, the lesser competition in America provided a wake-up. A mile arguably is not her best distance anyway unless the ground is very testing, which it definitely was for the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1). Hard to pinpoint one problem for her summertime slump, but last week was evidence that it’s likely behind her. Logical threat adding blinkers and with an extra furlong to work with.
5. NICEST (10-1) – Has been concentrating on longer races throughout the season, perhaps due to her dam having won the Irish Oaks (G1) (though Chicquita’s sister, Magic Wand, was effective going shorter than 12f). Her own shot at Irish Oaks glory was stillborn with Snowfall in the field, but that run was okay considering. And the form of the Ribblesdale (G2) has improved following Loving Dream’s win in the Prix de Royallieu (G1) earlier this month. If conditions turn this race into a test of stamina, she’d be one not to sleep on.
6. QUEEN GODDESS (30-1) – This filly has displayed solid late kicks to win her last two starts at Del Mar despite getting no help whatsoever pace-wise. That sort of talent will be extremely useful as she continue to tackle more difficult foes. As far as matching up today, all indications suggest that her relative inexperience, in general but in stakes specifically, puts her at a significant disadvantage against this field.
7. LADY SPEIGHTSPEARE (8-1) – The 2020 Canadian champion juvenile filly makes her first trip outside the friendly confines of Woodbine with a flawless record, but without having been seriously battle-tested against a field of this quality. That said, her early speed will be an asset in a race lacking much in the way of pace, and her family is rich in accomplishment. Her G2-winning dam won the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch (G3) over this course, and she in turn is a full sister to multiple G1 winner Shakespeare and a half to Breeders’ Cup winner Perfect Shirl.
8. FLPPANT (15-1) – In contrast to Queen Goddess, this gray has been the beneficiary of quicker early tempos recently. But natural progression has almost certainly played a part as well in her recent stakes success. The pace doesn’t appear as if it will be fast here, especially with off-going expected after forecast rain. Seems a filly that can adapt to any scenario, but generally has a bit more to find rising in class.
9. CLOUDY DAWN (15-1) – If the Haggas barn does well on the British Champions Day card at Ascot Saturday morning, it’ll be worth giving this import a longer look as she’s one of several in the yard peaking right now as the European flat season winds down. Landed her first stakes in a Group 3 at Deauville last time, and the form was flattered when runner-up Just Beautiful came back to win the seven-furlong Spectre (G3) at Doncaster. Although she hasn’t traveled this far yet, that’s of less concern than the fact she has yet to negotiate a bend. Nonetheless, is in good hands with Hernandez and shouldn’t be discounted despite the class hike.
10. CLOSING REMARKS (8-1) – Has developed a reputation for being consistent, albeit in securing minor checks as she’s a cut below the top of the division in Southern California. Dominated as that is by Going Global, who arguably would have been a stronger threat here, her qualifications in this spot appear dicey. On the plus side, nine furlongs has best suited her as a couple of the closest losses have come over this trip. Untested over the type of ground she’ll encounter, though, and the competition here is much fiercer.