Only 2 3/4 lengths separated the first from the last horse in the international field of seven 3-year-old fillies. The time for the 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf was 1:51.20.
Sweet Talker, the longest price in the field in spite of winning three of her last four starts, held off two invaders from Europe. United Kingdom-based Karen's Caper, ridden by Robby Albarado, closed on the outside to finish second, a head in front of French-bred Gorella, who found room along the hedge for Gary Stevens. It was the first graded stakes victory for Sweet Talker, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stormin Fever -Another Vegetarian (by Stalwart).
Luas Line, the 2-1 favorite based on her overpowering win in the Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) a month ago, finished sixth, beaten less than two lengths in the invitational event.
Eliah and Lisa Kahn own Sweet Talker, who won the Martha Washington at Laurel Park's turf course Sept. 24. Kenneth McPeek previously trained the dark bay that took the Edgewood Stakes and Caressing Handicap for him. Sweet Talker increased her career earnings to $682,723 with a record of 7-2-1 in 13 starts."She couldn't have been doing any better coming into the race," said Pitts. "I thought she would run well."
"Down the stretch, she wanted to stay with the other horse (pacesetter Naissance Royale)," said winning jockey Rafael Bejarano. "I tried to urge her on but she wasn't cooperating. I thought I might have lost it, but thank God we didn't."
Karen's Caper was a recent arrival from England where she finished second in the important Coronation Stakes (Eng-I) at York in June. "My filly ran her eyeballs out," said Albarado. "This was a tough beat. I don't think I could have gotten any closer at the finish than that. It was a great horse race."
Sweet Talker paid $39.40, $14 and $5. Karen's Caper returned $12.60 and $6.40.Gorella, who won the Prix de Sandringham (Fr-II) at Chantilly, paid $3.20.
Naissance Royale finished fourth after fashioning an easy early pace of :25 1/5 and :50 4/5, followed, in order, by Three Degrees, Luas Line and Singhalese.
During the 22-year history of the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, 12 finishes have been won by less than a length – including the last six runnings.