Evening Jewel and Check the Label, who have won seven consecutive graded stakes between them, will meet in a showdown of star 3-year-old fillies Oct. 16 in the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
A field of eight was drawn for 1 1/8-mile turf race, with Marilyn Braly’s California shipper Evening Jewel and Lael Stables’ East Coast-based Check the Label expected to vie for favoritism. Also in the mix is American Oaks (gr. IT) victor Harmonious
, Lake George (gr. IIT) winner Perfect Shirl
, grade III winner Snow Top Mountain, and European invader Zagora
, a two-time group III winner in France making her North American debut.
Evening Jewel has won three consecutive starts since missing by a nose in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and being switched to turf by trainer James Cassidy. The daughter of Northern Afleet
began her win streak in the May 31 Honeymoon Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park, and followed with a pair of victories at Del Mar—the July 25 San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) and Aug. 21 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT). Victor Espinoza, aboard for all of those wins, will fly in for the mount.
Based at Hollywood, Evening Jewel had a final breeze on Oct. 12 before being shipped east. The bay filly won the Central Bank Ashland (gr. I) on Keeneland’s Polytrack in April in her lone trip to Lexington. This will be her first race since Tom Braly, who owned the horse with his wife, Marilyn, passed away of cancer on Sept. 3.
Evening Jewel, an earner of $876,943 from 12 starts, was bred in California by Betty Mabee and Larry Mabee, and is out of the Giant's Causeway
mare Jewel of the Night.
Cassidy will be seeking his second QE II victory, having taken the 2004 running with Ticker Tape.
While Evening Jewel first tasted success on synthetics, Check the Label has always been a true turf horse. The daughter of Stormin Fever has scored all six of her wins on turf, and really began to blossom this spring when she won the Appalachian Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland for the first of her four straight graded stakes triumphs.
Trained by Graham Motion, Check the Label also won the Sands Point (gr. IIT) at Belmont, Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT) at Colonial Downs, and most recently came from well off the pace to take the Sept. 18 Garden City Stakes for her first grade I win on Belmont’s yielding turf course. All three of those victories were at the QE II distance.
Regular rider Ramon Dominguez will keep the mount on Check the Label, who was bred in Kentucky by Brereton Jones and is out of the Mazel Trick mare Don’t Trick Her. Motion won the 2003 edition of the race with Film Maker.
The fillies that finished runner-up to Evening Jewel and Check the Label in their last starts are also back. Martin, Emily, and Pam Wygod’s Harmonious fell a half-length short of Evening Jewel in the Del Mar Oaks, one start after running off with the American Oaks at Hollywood Park in her stakes debut. The John Shirreffs-trained daughter of Dynaformer will make her East Coast debut with Joel Rosario in the irons.
Barbara Hunter’s Snow Top Mountain
missed by three parts of a length to Check the Label in the Garden City, the third consecutive race she has been a bridesmaid. Ironically, her lone stakes win came in the Arlington Oaks (gr. III) July 3, a race in which she crossed the wire second but was later awarded victory.
$400,000 Queen Elizabeth II (gr. IT, Race 8, 4:43 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Zagora (FR), J R Leparoux, 121, J Rouget
2. Snow Top Mountain (KY), R Albarado, 121, T F Proctor
3. Evening Jewel (CA), V Espinoza, 121, J M Cassidy
4. Check the Label (KY), R A Dominguez, 121, H G Motion
5. Dade Babe (FL), F Geroux, 121, D L Miller
6. Harmonious (KY), J Rosario, 121, J A Shirreffs
7. Perfect Shirl (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, R L Attfield
8. La Cloche (KY), J Alvarado, 121, J J Toner