Trainer Keri Brion fittingly dominated Wednesday’s $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard H. (G1) at Saratoga, the former New York Turf Writers Cup which was re-named this year in honor of the Hall of Fame trainer who was Brion’s long-time mentor.
Prevailing at 4-5 was the only mare in the field of eight, The Mean Queen, who took over inside the final three furlongs and won convincingly by 4 3/4 lengths under Thomas Garner. Long-time leader Baltimore Bucko held second by a nose over French Light, thus giving Brion the 1-2-3 finishers in the 2 3/8-mile hurdle.
“I guess this is how it was always supposed to be,” Brion said. “I remember when they said that this race was going to be named after him, I was still in Ireland and I was thinking, ‘I hope I just have one.’ Jonathan won the Turf Writers 15 or so times, so now that it’s the Jonathan Sheppard, I hope I can win it 15 times.”
The Mean Queen is the sixth female ever to win the race and the first since Footlights in 2007. The most prominent female winner of the former New York Turf Writers Cup was Life’s Illusion (1975), the only filly or mare ever to win the American steeplechase title.
Owned by Buttonwood Farm, The Mean Queen paid $3.60 after covering the course in 4:40.14 on yielding ground.
Lightly-raced with just seven lifetime starts, The Mean Queen won two of her first three starts in Ireland prior to her importation. After an allowance win in her U.S. debut in late May, The Mean Queen followed up with a 3 1/2-length win in the Margaret Currey Henley, a stakes for fillies and mares, at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
The Mean Queen was on her way to a convincing win in the July 28 Jonathan Kiser Novice S. at Saratoga in late July, but ducked in late and sent Garner to the ground as an odds-on favorite.
“She redeemed herself,” Brion said. “I had no doubt that she would run a huge race.”
Bred in Ireland by Kevin Purfield, The Mean Queen is by Doyen and out of Gail Borden, by Kris Kin. Her record now stands at 7-4-2-0, $135,660.