Keeneland racing secretary Ben Huffman expects at least eight names, with the possibility of a couple more, to be in the entry box Wednesday for Saturday's 29th running of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 1 1/8 miles on the turf for three-year-old fillies.
Heading the probable entries are Samitar, winner of the Grade 1 Garden City in her most recent start, and Stephanie's Kitten, who exits a score in the Grade 2 Lake Placid.
A Group 3 winner at two, Samitar captured the Group 1 Irish Two Thousand Guineas and finished fourth in the prestigious Group 1 Coronation Stakes in Europe this year before being sent to the United Stakes. The Rock of Gibraltar filly just missed in her first appearance stateside, recording a neck third in the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes at Saratoga, before posting a head decision in the September 15 Garden City. That marked her first start with trainer Chad Brown and jockey Ramon Dominguez is expected to retain the mount on Saturday.
Stephanie's Kitten garnered major wins in the Grade 1 Alcibiades on Keeneland's Polytrack and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year. The Wayne Catalano trainee registered her first victory this season in the May 4 Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs and followed it with a troubled fourth, beaten only a half-length, in the Lake George. Stephanie's Kitten rebounded in the Lake Placid, scoring comfortably by a half-length, and John Velazquez will retain the mount on the daughter of Kitten's Joy.
Dayatthespa has not lost since an unplaced effort in the 2011 Juvenile Fillies Turf and will bring a four-race win streak into the 1 1/8-mile Queen Elizabeth. Also conditioned by Brown, the City Zip filly opened 2012 with victories in the Sweetest Chant and Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream Park, and then rolled to a 2 3/4-length decision in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland in April. After being freshened four months, she returned with another easy tally in the August 31 Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga. Javier Castellano is her regular rider.
Other likely entries include Lake George winner and Lake Placid runner-up Centre Court; Keeneland stakes winner and Garden City runner-up Somali Lemonade; Grade 2 winner Better Lucky; Irish Group 3 vixen and Garden City third-placer Tannery; and Grade 3-placed Treasured Up.