Favored filly Cambier Parc charges to thrilling win in QEII at Keeneland

Saturday’s marquee race at Keeneland produced as thrilling a wire-to-wire win as one could hope to see.

Cambier Parc took the lead out of the gate, managed to keep a nose ahead of several competitors, then kicked to the outside and charged to a 1-length victory over Castle Lady in the 36th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies.

Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by John Velazquez, Cambier Parc went off as the favorite and won for the fifth time in eight career starts to earn $300,000 and raise her career winnings to just under $800,000. It’s her second straight Grade 1 victory after closing for a late win in the Del Mar Oaks in August.

“When she got to the lead, she relaxed really well,” Velazquez said. “Once she got to the lead, she relaxed and she opened up a length, a length and a half, and she decided to wait for the horses. I had to keep reminding her to keep running … I think if another horse got closer, she would have gone again.”

Brown said he gave Velazquez latitude when it came to strategy, and it paid off.

“I gave (Velazquez) the option to go to the lead, and he took it. She really responded,” Brown said. “She’s a really well-bred, great-looking horse that anyone would love to have. I’m lucky to have her.”

Royalty fades

For the first time in the history of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, Queen Elizabeth herself owned one of the horses competing in her namesake race.

Perhaps the crowd got wind of the connection, because by the time Saturday’s featured contest hit the post Magnetic Charm had been bet down to 7-1 odds from a morning line of 12-1.

That late showing of faith was not rewarded, however. After hanging near the front for the first half of the race, Magnetic Charm faded to a last-place finish.

Star filly retires as a millionaire

With a runner-up finish in Friday’s Franklin County stakes, Morticia banked a $30,000 payout, pushing her career earnings past the $1 million mark.

It was a fitting milestone for the 5-year-old filly, because her connections announced after the race that she’d be riding off into the sunset.

“I’m pretty sure that’s it. There’s not much left for her to do and I think now she will go to the farm where she grew up,” trainer and co-breeder Rusty Arnold said. “We’ve got our two horses (Totally Boss and Leinster) for the Breeders’ Cup and there are six or seven other good ones, so it will be up to one of those two to carry the banner for us.”

Morticia will retire with a record of 10-7-5 in 26 career starts. The daughter of Twirling Candy finished worse than fourth only once, in her 2-year-old debut at Ellis Park in 2016 when she finished sixth in the only non-turf race of her career. Morticia won at nine different tracks. She found the Keeneland winner’s circle twice, including in 2017 when she was victorious in the Franklin County Stakes.

“I know how lucky I am,” Arnold said. “I have a one-broodmare band (the Mr. Greeley mare Halloween Party) and I have a millionaire out of her.”

Three safe days

After a rough start to the Fall Meet in which three horses had to be euthanized in the first four days of racing because of on-track injuries, including two on opening day, three days have passed without incident.

On Wednesday, Triggerman had to be euthanized after falling near the finish line and injuring his front left leg. Jockey Adam Beschizza was also injured. According to Beschizza’s agent, Liz Morris, he suffered a broken collarbone and will spend three weeks recovering before returning to riding.

Crowd unfazed by weather

A jarring shift in weather over 24 hours did nothing to depress attendance at Keeneland on Saturday. An announced crowd of 24,133 turned out despite temperatures that only reached the upper 50s one day after creeping into the low 80s. Temperatures are expected to flirt with 70 on Sunday.

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Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.