It was another spectacular photo finish between a pair of distaffers during the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Lady Eli, the 8-5 favorite in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), was also the sentimental favorite because she had beaten laminitis and returned to the highest levels of racing. But when results flashed on the Santa Anita Park tote board Nov. 5, the daughter of Divine Park fell just short of a miraculous ending to her already remarkable comeback this year.
European invader Queen's Trust denied Lady Eli that fairy tale ending, just getting her nose down over the multiple grade I winner to upset the 1 1/4 miles Filly & Mare Turf in a finish as narrow in its margin as the epic Beholder-Songbird showdown less than 24 hours earlier in the Longines Distaff (gr. I).
Lady Eli had the sentiment of much of the racing community on her side, having returned to the races this summer after a 13-month layoff following a freak incident. She stepped on a nail while returning from her win in the 2015 Belmont Oaks Invitational (gr. IT) and developed laminitis in both front feet—a condition that is often life-threatening.
The 4-year-old mare trainer Chad Brown has deemed 'made of steel' already defied odds when she captured the Oct. 8 Flower Bowl Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park, her second start back. And when she ranged up three-wide in the stretch and took aim at Avenge holding strong after setting a quick pace, it looked briefly like the ending of all endings would come to fruition—then Queen's Trust came with her wicked surge outside en route to hitting the wire in a Breeders' Cup record time of 1:57.75.
"She's incredible. We know she's incredible and we know this comeback story was singular, second to none," said Jay Hanley of Sheep Pond Partners, Lady Eli's owners. "It's just hard to see her lose by a nostril. But if she's back, she's healthy, that's all that really matters. That's the bottom line."
A Cheveley Park Stud homebred, Queen's Trust came into the Filly & Mare Turf with just a maiden win from seven starts but finished third in the Aug. 18 Darley Yorshire Oaks (Eng-I) behind fellow Filly & Mare Turf contender Seventh Heaven and eventual Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) winner Found.
The 3-year-old daughter of Dansili (GB) also had the benefit of champion jockey Frankie Dettori guiding her for the first time Saturday. After getting off slowly out of post No. 11, Queen's Trust rated 11th in the 13-horse field as Avenge whipped through fractions of :23.10 and :46.16 over the firm turf.
When the field came off the final turn, Queen's Trust gamely split rivals and kept responding to Dettori's right-handed urging, giving her rider his 12th Breeders' Cup win and trainer Sir Michael Stoute his seventh piece of Breeders' Cup hardware.
"The straights are a bit short but when I got to Lady Eli's back wheels, I was confident I would catch her," Dettori said. "She dug very deep today and it's great for the team."
Avenge held for third with Seventh Heaven fourth, while Zipessa, Ryans Charm, Sea Calisi, Catch a Glimpse, Al's Gal, Sentiero Italia, Nuovo Record, Kitcat, and Pretty Perfect completed the order of finish. At odds of 8-1, Queen's Trust paid $18, $8.40 and $5.80 across the board.