LEXINGTON, Ky. — Widely considered the leading three-year-old turf filly in the country last spring, La Coronel had lost her way, and her claim on that designation, with three losses over the summer and fall that began with an unsuccessful jaunt to Royal Ascot in England.
Before a sun-soaked crowd of 29,636 at Keeneland on Saturday, and tackling arguably the division’s deepest field of the season, La Coronel found herself back on top of the pecking order following a wire-to-wire victory in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1).
Nursed on the lead through steady fractions of :23.81, :48.60, and 1:13.47 by jockey Jose Lezcano, La Coronel had plenty left to withstand a late challenge from Daddys Lil Darling to win by a half-length in a time of 1:48.99 for 1 1/8 miles on firm turf.
“Some people began to doubt her, so it’s great she was able to come here and redeem herself,” said David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse.
Owned by John Oxley, La Coronel paid $12.20 while pushing her record on the Keeneland turf to three-for-three. She’s won at the last three meetings in Lexington, taking the Jessamine (G3) at the 2016 fall stand and the Appalachian (G3) last April.
Finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Daddys Lil Darling was Madam Dancealot. She was followed by Uni, Beau Recall, 5-2 favorite New Money Honey, Dream Dancing, Proctor’s Ledge, Con Te Partiro, and European invader Unforgettable Filly. The other European entry, Wuheida, was scratched after coming up lame on Friday.
In addition to her three stakes win at Keeneland, La Coronel also took the Edgewood (G3) at Churchill Downs on Derby weekend. However, she had scores to settle with some of her QE II rivals having run sixth to New Money Honey in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), fourth to Proctor’s Ledge in the Lake Placid (G2) two back, and second by a neck to Uni in the Sands Point (G2) in her most recent start where she also tried to lead all the way. Her summertime skid began at Ascot, where she ran fifth to Winter in the Coronation (G1).
“The course last time [Belmont] may have been a little hard for,” Lezcano said. “This is a more giving course.”
Bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Nardelli, Nardelli, Bunning, Jaffreys, and Jaffreys, La Coronel was a $375,000 OBS April purchase after previously bringing $37,000 at Fasig-Tipton October as a yearling. She was unsold as a $37,000 weanling at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.
By Colonel John, she’s out of the Chester House mare Listen, a Grade 3-placed half-sister to Grade 2 winner Listen Here and stakes winner Indy Bird. Other luminaries from this family include sprint champion Lost in the Fog, Grade 1 winners Listening and Bonapaw, and Grade 2 scorers Luminaire, Wistful, Beautiful Noise, and Linda.
La Coronel has now earned $754,844 from a line of 12-5-2-0.
Trainer Chad Brown stayed at Belmont Park instead of saddling his entrants at Keeneland.