2022 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Cheatsheet
By TwinSpires Editorial Team, Sponsored Content

By Vance Hanson (TwinSpires.com)

1. CALIFORNIA ANGEL (15-1) – Turned in a terrific rally to win the Jessamine (G2) over this course last season, but has gone winless since, though a couple of those starts were on the dirt; recently returned from an extended layoff to finish third in the Dueling Grounds Oaks, which should set her up for an improved performance second time back, but this closer is one of several in the field likely to be affected by the apparent lack of pace in the field; doubts about relative class also remain.

2. GINA ROMANTICA (7-2) – Less classy than her favored stablemate going into his race, but otherwise fits on current form after trading decisions with Faith in Humanity in her first outings over the grass; showed a touch of speed at times earlier in her career, so wouldn’t be a total surprise is she were to provide a pace target for McKulick and others in here, though leaning against the possibility of a theft as she faces the toughest group of her career.

3. SHE’S GONE (30-1) – Although this isn’t one of the deepest renewals of this race, she looks up against it on paper having only just passed her first allowance condition last month, two starts after belatedly breaking her maiden up at Indiana; tough spot in which to make her stakes debut.

4. NEW YEAR’S EVE (9-2) – Has the distinction of having handily beaten McKulick in the Edgewood (G2) back in May; although no match for that rival in the Belmont Oaks (G1), she finished much closer in the Saratoga Oaks (G3) after a tough trip; got very little pace help last time in the Dueling Grounds Oaks and might not have liked the course and/or distance, so figures to be a more serious player here, though will need to rate closer given the lack of apparent pace.

5. BELLABEL (5-1) – Intriguing candidate from California was outclassed in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) by Eastern-based Spendarella, but otherwise maintained her position as the best 3yo turf filly on that circuit by finishing a clear second; will encounter a course that plays a lot less firm here, but perhaps can rely on her Irish roots to navigate the terrain effectively; one of the more logical candidates if looking for an alternative to McKulick.

6. MCKULICK (1-1) – Deserving favorite has proven the best three-year-old turf filly in the country over 1 1/4 miles and up with scores in the Belmont Oaks (G1) and Jockey Club Oaks (G3) in two of her last three; cut back in distance from 1 3/8 miles perhaps a slight concern, and she didn’t win either of her two prior tries in Kentucky, though Churchill‘s new turf wasn’t to every horse’s taste last spring; Brown has dominated this race of late, too; strictly the one to fear.

7. PARIS PEACOCK (10-1) – American-owned Irish import enters off narrow back-to-back stakes wins, one a G3, but the form of the two races has not been flattered subsequently by those that placed; still, she’s a consistent sort, and this is not the deepest renewal of the race we’ve seen in recent years; probably wouldn’t need to improve a whole lot to earn a piece.