Here is the race story for Sunday’s paper on the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland:
If there is one thing that has become clear about Dayatthespa this season, it’s that while she may throw around the occasional attitude, she is incredibly laid back when it comes to in-race strategies.
Give her an easy lead and she’ll make any late rallies futile. Try and outfoot her and she’ll simply run rivals down with her smooth but high powered kick.
“She’s won from off the pace, she’s won on the pace, she’s a horse with speed and she can carry it,” trainer Chad Brown said. “When you have speed and you can carry it a route of ground, you’re a dangerous horse.”
For the fifth time in as many outings this year, none of Dayatthespa’s challengers could come up with anything to stymie the daughter of City Zip on Saturday. After being allowed to lay down pedestrian fractions up front, Dayatthespa cruised to her fifth straight victory and first career Grade I triumph when she defeated Centre Court and six others in the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over the Keeneland turf.
The last time the 3-year-old chestnut filly left a starting gate and didn’t end up feted afterwards was when she finished ninth behind Grade I winner and fellow QEII rival Stephanie’s Kitten in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last November.
In transitioning from 2 to 3, Dayatthespa has essentially put on her big-girl pants and become what her trainer now deems the best sophomore turf filly in the nation.
“Chad has done an exceptional job taking his time with her this year, she has matured so much,” said Peter Bradley of Bradley Thoroughbreds, who co-owns the filly along with Steve Laymon, Ron Frankel and Jerry Frankel. “She’s just one of the special horses, they don’t come around very often.
“While she gets a little antsy sometimes, once she’s on the track she’s totally professional. In the paddock she was a lot better today than she has been in the past. She’s just maturing.”
After beginning her 5-race win streak with an off-the-pace run in the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream and following that up with a victory in the Grade III Herecomesthebride, Dayatthespa suffered a minor hind end injury shortly after her triumph in the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland in April.
What kept Brown from being all that disappointed at that moment was the fact he had already seen enough from the filly to know she ultimately wouldn’t miss a beat.
“When she started running at Gulfstream, I told my partners we might have a real special horse here and then when she was unfortunately injured in the spring, I told them… ‘Trust me, this filly is a keeper. She is a career horse’,” said Brown, who has saddled four graded stakes winners in the last week alone. “She’s not a horse where we have to get what we can, running against her own age. She’s a horse who will be good from 2 to 5 if we take care of her.”
As visually impressive as Dayatthespa was winning the Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga in August, she put the QEII in her back pocket before the race even hit the final turn.
Under artful handling from Javier Castellano, Dayatthespa loped along in :24.52 and :49.11 on the front end and continued to draw off for a two length score in a final time of 1:48.99 for the 1 1/8-miles test.
“Let’s just say my stomach stopped turning,” Bradley joked when asked about the early fractions.
Centre Court held for second over Better Lucky while 2-to-1 favorite Stephanie’s Kitten finished sixth.
“I had all the shot that I wanted. She just didn’t have it today,” said John Velazquez, jockey of Stephanie’s Kitten.
Though her Grade I-winning stablemate Zagora will likely be among the favorites for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Dayatthespa is expected to sit that dance out and possibly resurface in the Grade I Matriarch at Hollywood Park in late November.
“She’s the best 3-year old turf filly in the country and she proved it today,” Brown said. “Anyone who wants to run with her at her distance they can try.”