LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A replay of the Garden City Stakes at Belmont Park is required watching for horseplayers trying to get some context on what might happen Saturday when Keeneland runs the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for the 26th time.
Miss World and Shared Account, the top two finishers from the Sept. 12 Garden City, are among the seven 3-year-old turf fillies entered in the $500,000 QE II. Perhaps more notably, Gozzip Girl, fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the same race, also has shipped in from New York.
As scary moments go, the opening quarter-mile or so of the Garden City was about as disturbing as you can get without something tragic happening. Gozzip Girl, full of run while hemmed in along the rail on the clubhouse turn of the Belmont turf course, clipped heels and had every right to fall. Somehow, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux kept the filly upright, which was a victory in itself despite the obvious overall disappointment, both for her connections and backers.
"We were lucky that she didn't go down and Kent didn't get hurt," said Tom Albertrani, who trains Gozzip Girl for Farnsworth Stables. "She broke a little slow, then rushed up into a jackpot. It was pretty ugly."
Races that preceded the Garden City are what made Gozzip Girl such a heavy choice that day, and with the brutal trip as a legitimate excuse, fans are likely to be in a forgiving mood and make her and Desormeaux their favorite once again Saturday. By the noted grass sire Dynaformer, Gozzip Girl won four straight turf stakes starting in February. She won twice at Gulfstream Park, ran a close second in the Grade 1 Ashland over the Polytrack at Keeneland, then followed with scores in the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont and the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park. Then came the Garden City debacle.
Although the QE II, a 1 1/8-mile invitational, is not a Win and You're In event toward the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita, Albertrani and a few of his colleagues would be eager to move forward to California in case of a big effort Saturday.
"That's our hope, to run well enough in this race to get to the Breeders' Cup," said Albertrani.
The Gozzip Girl mishap should not serve to diminish the progress Miss World and Shared Account have made in recent months.
A maiden until winning her sixth career start July 8 on the Belmont turf, Miss World enters off a three-race win streak, capped by her 1 3/4-length score at 13-1 in the Garden City. Christophe Clement trains Miss World, a Bernstein filly, for Waratah Thoroughbreds.
Shared Account began making an impact in the upper ranks of the division when she ran second, beaten a head, in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks in July. She followed that with a victory in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga, then her runner-up try in the Garden City, in which she led most of the way.
"That might not have been the most ideal scenario for her," said Graham Motion, who trains her for Sagamore Farm. "She probably would rather have something to run at."
Rajiv Maragh has the mount on Miss World, while Edgar Prado will be aboard Shared Account.
Besides the Garden City trio, the QE II field also includes Hameildaeme, Hot Cha Cha, Blind Date, and Lady Shakespeare.
Hot Cha Cha, the only locally based starter, enters off a rallying score in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington Park for trainer Phil Sims and jockey Jimmy Graham.
Blind Date, based in Maryland with Hamilton Smith, makes her first trip off the East Coast. She was up in the final jumps to defeat Shared Account in the Virginia Oaks and has since maintained her form in two races at her Laurel Park base.
Lady Shakespeare, based in Canada with Roger Attfield, got a last-minute invitation after a handful of original invitees defected when entries were drawn Wednesday.
The QE II, the sixth and last Grade 1 event at the 17-day Keeneland fall meet, goes as the ninth of 10 races on a Saturday card that also includes the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes (race 7). First post is 1:05 p.m., with the QE II set for 5:05.