Kantor, Blank, Sarkis & Yutar’s 4-year-old gelding Vardy (SAF) made a sustained bid in the final 300 yards under jockey Craig Zackey to capture Saturday’s 1-mile R1.5 million L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) by 1 ¼ lengths over One World (SAF) at Kenilworth Racecourse, and earned an automatic berth into the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge.
One race prior to the Queen’s Plate, the 4-year-old filly Queen Supreme (IRE) won the 1 1/8-mile R1 million Cartier Paddock Stakes (G1) and gained a free berth into the $2 million Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
Now in its 13th season, the Breeders’ Cup Challenge is an international series of stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held this year at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, on Nov. 6-7.
As a part of the benefits of the Challenge series, the Breeders’ Cup will pay the pre-entry and entry fees for Vardy and Queen Supreme to start in the World Championships. Breeders’ Cup also will provide a US$40,000 travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete at Keeneland. If not Breeders’ Cup eligible, the Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 26 to receive the rewards.
Vardy, a bay gelding by Kentucky-bred Var, out of Cupid (SAF) by Jet Master (SAF), is trained by Adam Marcus. The Queen’s Plate was Vardy’s sixth win in nine starts and his fourth victory at Kenilworth. He completed the mile in 1:37.00 over a course listed as good.
Queen’s Plate Replay
Sent off at the 17-2 as the fourth choice in a 10-horse field that included 2018-2019 South African Horse of the Year and defending champion Do It Again (SAF) and odds-on favorite Hawwaam (SAF), Vardy settled toward the rear of the pack in the early going, while longshot Crown Towers (AUS) set the pace through the first five furlongs, with Rainbow Bridge (SAF) in close pursuit. As the field straightened into the stretch, Rainbow Bridge passed Crown Towers and established a two-length lead. Hawwaam, who appeared uncomfortable in the early going, finally found his footing and moved into third place. However, Vardy, coming widest of all with powerful strides, surged to the lead just before the two-furlong marker and secured the victory.
One World, at 17-1, finished second, followed by Rainbow Bridge, Twist of Fate (SAF), Hawwaam, and Do It Again, who failed to make a serious bid, finishing sixth.
“He was off the bit throughout the race and then he picked it up turning for home,” said Zackey to the Sporting Post. “He has a turn of foot like no other!”
Today’s win was Vardy’s first career Group 1 score. He came into the Queen’s Plate off a one- length victory, also over One World and Rainbow Bridge, in the 1-mile World Sports Betting Green Point Stakes (G2) at Kenilworth on Dec. 14.
Queen Supreme takes Paddock Stakes
Mauritzfontein (Pty) Ltd., Mrs. M F de Kock and partners’ Queen Supreme (IRE) powered past pacesetter Castellano (SAF) to win the Cartier Paddock Stakes (G1) by 2 ½ lengths over Driving Miss Daisy (SAF) and Silvano’s Pride (SAF).
Trained by Mike de Kock, Queen Supreme, a chestnut daughter of Exceed and Excel (AUS) out of Call Later by Gone West, made up seven lengths on Castellano between the third and second furlong markers to cruise home a winner. She completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.08 over a course listed as good. Front and Centre (SAF), the 7-10 favorite, made a serious bid in the final furlong, but wound up fourth.
Paddock Stakes Replay
Queen Supreme improved her record to five wins in seven starts in her first race at Kenilworth after six races at Turffontein. She broke her maiden in her first try last June, and after a defeat in a conditions handicap, reeled off four consecutive wins, including the Group 3, 1 1/8-mile Yellowwood Handicap on Nov. 2. De Kock then entered her against males in the Group 1 1 ¼-mile Summer Cup (G1) on Nov. 30, where she gave an excellent account of herself, finishing fourth, beaten just 1 ¾ lengths for it all.