Keeneland Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Weekend
Recent non-graded winner Always Thinking returns to G3 level for the Franklin County Stakes over five and a half furlongs on turf at Keeneland, USA, on Friday, October 13.
The four-year-old Street Sense filly ran on strongly to score by a cosy length and a half in the six-furlong Sensible Lady Turf Dash Stakes at Laurel Park on September 16.
Always Thinking kept on to finish fifth on her only previous appearance in Graded company, in the G3 Violet Stakes over nine furlongs at Monmouth Park in August.
Her trainer Tom Albertrani commented: “Always Thinking was impressive on her last start, when she won in a very quick time, and has been training well since.
“We have tried her over further and on different surfaces but it looks like we have found her best distance.
“Hopefully, she can take another step forward in this race.”
Joe Bravo takes the ride on Always Thinking, who is drawn eight and takes on 11 fillies and mares including G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf fourth Lull, last year’s winner Miss Ella and non-graded Soaring Softly Stakes scorer Morticia.
Two offspring of the Irish stallion Sir Prancealot will be going postward in Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1) for Slam Dunk Racing: Beau Recall (IRE) and MadamDancealot (IRE).
“It is just a coincidence both are by Sir Prancealot,” said Nick Cosato, the managing partner for Slam Dunk. “We were looking at them as individuals, but if we get a few more Sir Prancelots, it no longer will be a coincidence. He is a new sire and we wanted to see how they would handle firm turf over here.”
Madam Dancealot, who will be ridden Saturday by Jamie Theriot, comes into the QE 2 off a third-place finish in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) that was on the heels of a victory in the San Clemente (G2). Beau Recall, who will be ridden by Joe Talamo, has run second in three graded stakes and was beaten only a nose in the Del Mar Oaks.
“They have both panned out,” Cosato said.
“We got Beau Recall for a good price after she just broke her maiden and we brought her over here with the idea of running in a starter race down the hill (the 6½-furlong course at Santa Anita). But they didn’t write any such races, so we put her in over her head and she won.
She has far exceeded our expectations. “We were actually thinking of running her in a Grade 3 in two weeks (the $100,000 Autumn Miss at Santa Anita Oct. 29), but we think she deserves to be in a Grade 1. She has shown that.”
Madam Dancealot was purchased earlier and made her debut in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita. “She broke poorly that day and Johnny (Velazquez) just rode her around there and took care of her,” Cosato said. After the Breeders’ Cup, Madam Dancealot mainly sprinted down the hill at Santa Anita before hitting her stride at Del Mar.
“Corey Nakatani, who had been riding her, thought she’d rate going a mile and an eighth and Jamie (Theriot) thinks she will be better the farther she goes,” Cosato said.
Both fillies had their final works for Saturday’s race at Santa Anita on Sunday and flew to Lexington Tuesday. They limited their Wednesday morning activity to light exercise on Keeneland’s all-weather training track. Simon Callaghan trains Beau Recall, and Richard Baltas trains Madam Dancealot. Both trainers are seeking their initial Keeneland stakes victories.