For the majority of her career, the Aidan O'Brien-trained filly Together was a decided underachiever, notching just two career wins and carrying a 12-race losing skid on her shoulders.
In the span of seven days, the bay daughter of Galileo managed to deliver two of the best runs of her life, including the breakthrough outing her connections always hoped for.
Wheeled back on the track just one week after finishing second in Keeneland's Grade I First Lady Stakes, Together proved she belonged in the top-level company she had been keeping when she edged clear in the stretch to capture the Grade I, $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over the turf by 11/4 lengths on Saturday.
Owned by the Coolmore partnership of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, Together was making her seventh consecutive start against Grade/Group I company but had not won since taking a weight-for-age stakes at Leopardstown on July 15, 2010.
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The 3-year-old filly bounced out of her runner-up effort in the 1-mile First Lady so well, however, that her connections decided to leave her in the states for another week and see whether she could earn the spotlight that had eluded her in Europe.
"I mean, she did so well last week, she told us what to do," said Malachy Ryan, broodmare manager for Coolmore's American-based Ashford Stud operation. "Aidan is very happy with her so it was a great decision for everyone. She's a good filly, and she ran great last week. She proved it today."
Despite the presence of Grade I winners Winter Memories, Nereid, and Summer Soiree in the field, the Keeneland patrons were impressed enough with Together's First Lady form and the European rivals she had been battling to make her the 9-2 choice in the field of eight that went to post.
As expected, Summer Soiree showed her early speed with fractions of :24.31 and :48.57 while jockey Colm O'Donoghue settled the Irish-bred Together midpack between horses before moving out three-wide entering the stretch.
"She broke real smart from the gates, and she showed good early speed," O'Donoghue said. "I think she's always been consistent. She's always run at the highest level, and I think the fast (turf) really suited her today. She goes on any ground, any surface, and she's so fast."
With Summer Soiree getting leg-weary in the lane, Together loomed up and struck the front with about a furlong to go, besting runner-up Marketing Mix along the inside for her third win in 16 starts.
Nereid was third, and the final time for the 11⁄8 miles was 1:48.83 over a course rated firm.
Together's triumph capped yet another huge day for her sire and Coolmore Ireland stallion Galileo, whose top son, Frankel, remained unbeaten in nine starts with his win the Group I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes at Ascot in England on Saturday.
"He's the best sire in the world right now," Ashford Stud's Charlie O'Connor said.
Winter Memories, the 7-5 favorite, came with her usual late run but could not do better than fourth, just the second time in nine career starts the daughter of 1996 QEII winner Memories of Silver had finished off the board.
Winter Memories came into the Queen Elizabeth off a remarkable victory in the Grade I Garden City Stakes on Sept. 17, when she blew past a wall of horses in the stretch after enduring a severely troubled trip. That effort might have taken more out of the gray daughter of El Prado than originally believed because she never showed her normal spunk on Saturday.
"She was kind of empty," jockey Javier Castellano said. "She's been running pretty hard the last couple of races and, unfortunately, today she didn't show up. Usually, she's pulling on the backside, and today I had to ride her a little bit."