Ariege Among Contenders in Tough QE II
Photo: Z/Keeneland
Ariege, who took the Stonerside Beaumont at Keeneland on April 10, returns to Keeneland for the Queen Elizabeth II.

Ariege, a multiple graded stakes winner who has a victory over the Keeneland Polytrack earlier this season, leads a quality group of 3-year-old fillies that includes grade I winners Backseat Rhythm and Magical Fantasy in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) Oct. 11 on the turf in Lexington.

The 1 1/8-mile QE II is race 9 on a 10-race Keeneland program that also features the $200,000 Perryville Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs on the main track. All 11 entered for the QE II are stakes winners.
Owned by IEAH Stables and Pegasus Holding Group, Ariege is in the midst of a solid sophomore campaign that has produced a 3-1-1 record from five starts. After missing by a nose in the La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her season debut, the daughter of Doneraile Court reeled off three consecutive scores.
The win streak began with a half-length victory in the grade I Santa Anita Oaks March 8 on the Cushion Track. A month later Ariege came east and won the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) on the Keeneland Polytrack. She was given four months off by trainer Bobby Frankel, but returned a winner when she scored by 2 1/4 lengths in the Madame Jumel Stakes on the Saratoga turf. Most recently, the dark bay filly finished third, missing by less than a length to Backseat Rhythm, in the nine-furlong Garden City (gr. IT) Sept. 6 at Belmont.
Purchased for $75,000 at the Keeneland 2006 September yearling sale, Ariege is out of the Caerleon mare Kostroma. She was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm. Alan Garcia will get the mount.
Paul Pompa Jr.’s Backseat Rhythm has been in terrific form the last four and a half months, winning three of four starts including the Aug. 15 Lake Placid (gr. IIT) at Saratoga and the Garden City, where she came from well off the pace to run down Pure Clan. The El Corredor   filly is trained by Patrick Reynolds, the initial conditioner of Big Brown. Backseat Rhythm was also a $75,000 Keeneland yearling sale purchase. Javier Castellano will ride.
The filly that Backseat Rhythm defeated in the Lake Placid, Rosa Grace, also deserves some attention. Recently purchased by Three Chimneys Racing and transferred into the barn of Christophe Clement, Rosa Grace made her U.S. debut in the Lake Placid while finishing runner-up by 3 1/4 lengths. An English-bred daughter of former German Horse of the Year Lomitas, Rosa Grace won three of eight starts in England and Ireland, including the 1 1/4-mile Ballymacoll Stud Weinstock Memorial June 12 at Newbury.
“She’s a nice filly,” said Ben Colebrook, Clement’s assistant. “We’ve had her long enough (that) we’ve breezed her a few times. She had her last breeze at Belmont, and she went very well. The turf was real soft that day, but it didn’t seem to be too much of a problem. She’s won on good turf in England, and I think she probably likes it a little better firm.”
The QE II is featured on this week's edition of That Handicapping Show.
Patrick Gallagher trainee Magical Fantasy enters off a shocking victory in the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) Aug. 16 when she rallied to win by two lengths at odds of 42-1. The daughter of Diesis, who raced as a juvenile in England, had been winless in three U.S. starts prior to the upset. The West Coast shipper will be ridden by Alex Solis.
Three others to consider are Storm Mesa, Sefroua and My Princess Jess. Storm Mesa has bagged a pair of graded stakes wins the season, which most recently included a 1 1/4-length victory in the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar. Sefroua has never been off the board in seven starts, six of which came in France. The Kingmambo filly was third, beaten less than two lengths in her U.S debut by Criminologist in the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT) Sept. 13 at Belmont. My Princess Jess also has a pair of graded stakes triumphs this season and is trained by Barclay Tagg, who sent out QE II winner Bit of Whimsy a year ago.
In the Perryville, Zayat Stable’s Eaton’s Gift drew top weight of 121 pounds against his 11 rivals. The Swale (gr. II) winner has had good success over the Keeneland Polytrack, as he broke his maiden there in 2007 and finished third in the Lafayette in April. The Dale Romans trainee is coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Amsterdam (gr. II) July 28 at Saratoga.
Among the other contenders in the field are Sanford (gr. II) winner Ready’s Image and WinStar Derby winner Liberty Bull.
$200,000 Perryville Stakes (gr. III, Race 7, 4:10 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs (Polytrack)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey

1. I'm So Lucky (KY), 117, Robby Albarado
2. Nickel Shooter (NY), 117, Ramon A. Dominguez
3. Ready's Image (MD), 117, Eibar Coa
4. Fidelio (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
5. Eaton's Gift (KY), 121, Calvin H. Borel
6. Godolphin Gray (KY), 117, Matthew Straight
7. West Express (KY), 117, Miguel Mena
8. Meal Penalty (KY), 117, Javier Castellano
9. Wise Answer (FL), 117, Jamie Theriot
10. Hatta Fort (GB), 117, Julien R. Leparoux
11. Liberty Bull (KY),  117, Corey J. Lanerie
12. Amazing Results (IL), 117, Rene R. Douglas

$500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT, Race 9, 5:10 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey

1. Ariege (KY), 121, Alan Garcia
2. Sefroua (KY), 121, Ramon A. Dominguez
3. Storm Mesa (KY), 121, Eddie M. Martin, Jr.
4. Alwajeeha (KY), 121, John R. Velazquez
5. Closeout (FL), 121, Jamie Theriot
6. Magical Fantasy (KY), 121, Alex O. Solis
7. Rosa Grace (GB), 121, Julien R. Leparoux
8. Backseat Rhythm (KY), 121, Javier Castellano
9. Lickety Lemon (KY), 121, Shaun Bridgmohan
10. My Baby Baby (KY), 121, Robby Albarado
11. My Princess Jess (FL), 121, Eibar Coa

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