Favored Ticker Tape stormed past the leaders in the stretch with a powerful burst and held off the unlucky Barancella to win the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland Saturday.
Fifth on the far turn, the 3-year-old Royal Applause rallied with a sweeping move for jockey Kent Desormeax to grab the lead from pacesetter River Belle at the eighth pole. She pulled away and continued to the wire under firm handling. The time was 1:48 1/5 for the 1 1/8-mile event.
Rain throughout the week turned Keeneland's turf "soft" for the Challenge Cup. "Her European trainer told my agent that she wouldn't handle the soft turf, so I was very concerned," said winning trainer James Cassidy. "But she did the same thing she always does -- make that huge run."
The always-confident Desormeaux admitted that he, too, was worried whether Ticker Tape would get the job done.
"Going around the last turn, I got a little concerned when I saw the leader stealing off and I was behind a horse that wasn't progressing," said Desormeaux. "Just when I thought I was out of time, the horse in front of me started to progress. Finally when I showed her a clear path, she took off."
Barancella, the French-bred ridden by Edgar Prado, was trapped on the inside behind River Belle with Phantom Wind on her outside as Ticker Tape put in her winning kick. Once she found room and angled outside, Barancella made up ground quickly to finish second by a half-length. River Belle, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, was a half-length back in third.
"I angled her in near the rail for position, only to find out that she did not like being there at all," Prado explained. "I went outside for room, and was closing fast at the end, but I guess I was a jump too late."
Cassidy said before the race that the British-bred Ticker Tape would not run in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Lone Star Park (gr. IT) on Oct. 30, and he affirmed that afterward.
"I don't want to go against older horses – that's the thing," said Cassidy, who also noted that Ticker Tape tends to need more time beween races. He said he would wait for the Matriarch (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park.
"We talked about running her in the Breeders' Cup, but I told her owners she will run eyeballs out, and she still might get beat. I was glad to be able to run her against three-year-olds."
The multiple graded winner won for the third time in four tries. A defeat by a nose to Amorama in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) is all that separates Ticker Tape from four straight graded stakes wins. She captured the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in July and the Pucker Up (gr. IIIT) in her last state at Arlington Park Sept. 18.
Ticker Tape has done little wrong in 10 starts in the United States since Nov. 28, her first race after arriving from England. She has won five races and placing second in four others. She went over the $1 million mark in career earnings to $1,207,426. She has won nearly $1.1 million this year.
The victory was worth $310,000 to owners Jim Ford, Daron Pearson and Jack Sweesy.
River Belle was able to establish an easy lead through modest fractions of :25, :49 3/5 and 1:14 2/5 as a tugging Island Sand, Mambo Slew and Phantom Wind tracked. Ticker Tape was not asked for early run but remained in stalking position into the final turn.
Ticker Tape paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.40. Barancella returned $3 and $2.80. River Belle's show was $3.20.
Phantom Wind, Mambo Slew, Humorous Miss and Island Sand followed.