QUEEN ELIZABETH II CUP | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
Permitted to leave the paddock early with jockey Julien Leparoux in the saddle to avoid the cluster of the Keeneland walking ring, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Dumplings proved a quirky winner of the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over 8-5 favorite Alterite Oct. 12.
The nervous 3-year-old filly was on the muscle as she headed to the Lexington racetrack's Haggin course, but she was all business closing down the lane to run 1 ⅛ miles on the firm turf in 1:48.43 for trainer Mike Maker and her local connections. Alterite was also flying with a bid to her inside but ran out of ground before finishing second by a neck.
A record fall meet crowd of 32,717 was in attendance at Keeneland on Saturday.
"She's a little tough to deal with; she was a little nervous there in the paddock," Maker said. "With the crowd today at Keeneland, we thought we'd get her out of there and play it a little safe."
"She always comes from behind and we had the pace today; they went pretty fast in front and she made a big run at the end," Leparoux said. "I tried to get a jump a little bit on Johnny [on Alterite] and we got to the lead, and then he never could catch up."
That quick pace was set by Leigh Court, who sailed away to a one-length advantage for a quarter in :23.27 and opened up to 1 ½ lengths while going a half-mile in :46.56. Kitten's Dumplings was seventh as three-quarters went in 1:10.55, but advanced four-wide to second coming off the far turn and had the leader in her sights at the head of the lane.
Angling out for the drive and closing strongly as a mile went in 1:35.35, the winner passed a tiring Leigh Court and then held off Alterite, winner of the Sept. 14 Garden City Stakes, by a neck.
Kitten's Dumplings paid $11.80, $4.60, and $3.60 as the third choice at 9-2, while Alterite returned $3.20 and $2.60. Caroline Thomas was third at 18-1 for $5.20. Leigh Court, Say, I'm Already Sexy, Emotional Kitten, Sarach, and Concise completed the order of finish.
Kitten's Dumplings came off a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Aug. 17 Del Mar Oaks at Del Mar and before that won three in a row: the Edgewood Stakes and the Regret Stakes at Churchill Downs, and the Lake George Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
She was bred in Kentucky out of the Grand Slam mare Granny Franny and now has six wins and a second from 12 starts for earnings of $691,262.