Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Queen Goddess parlayed a perfect stalking trip into victory in Saturday’s $490,300 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G3). Under a well-judged ride by Luis Saez, the 4-1 shot got the decisive jump on deep-closing Shantisara at Gulfstream Park.
Queen Goddess arrived in top form following a commanding wire job in the Dec. 31 Robert J. Frankel (G3) at Santa Anita. But the Michael McCarthy mare was shortening up to 1 1/16 miles for the first time since her sophomore season, and she hadn’t faced stakes rivals at this trip. As the heroine of the 2021 American Oaks (G1) and 2022 Santa Ana (G3), both at 1 1/4 miles, might she get outkicked?
Saez made sure that didn’t happen by putting her stamina to use – securing a prominent position and launching the winning move on the far turn. Queen Goddess was fourth early, but only 1 1/2 lengths off the pacesetter Sweet Enough, who was pressed by Dalika through splits of :23.76 and :48.03. As Dalika challenged Sweet Enough passing six furlongs in 1:12.27, Queen Goddess was already joining them and traveling much the best.
Meanwhile, the favorites were trying to rally from unpromising positions. Although the 5-2 Shantisara was at least circling into view from seventh, 2-1 favorite Wakanaka was steadied on the inside at the crucial juncture. Wakanaka’s chances of erasing her deficit from sixth were lost along with her momentum.
Queen Goddess, in contrast, was in full flight. Striding clear of the early leaders turning for home, the daughter of Empire Maker poached a 2 1/2-length advantage by midstretch. Shantisara closed strongly to reduce the margin to 1 1/2 lengths at the wire, but never looked like overtaking the winner. Queen Goddess clocked 1:41.91 and rewarded her fans with a $10.40 payout.
“She ran pretty big,” Saez said of the winner. “Today she proved she’s a beautiful and special filly. We knew she had a lot of speed, but inside they had speed, too, so the plan was to try to follow the speed and be right behind, and everything went according to plan. It was perfect.”
Everything wasn’t according to plan for Shantisara, who was attempting to give Chad Brown another win in this race, after Regal Glory captured the inaugural running a year ago. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. reported that she wound up further back after a slow start.
“I could have made the first move outside, but I didn’t want to,” Ortiz said. “I followed some horses. The winner opened up on me, but my filly was closing.”
Shantisara had to settle for best of the rest, 2 3/4 lengths to the good of Lady Rockstar, with the same margin back to Dalika in fourth. Dalika kept her neck in front of Wakanaka, who was trailed by Artie’s Princess, Justify My Love, and Sweet Enough. Bay Storm, Perseverancia, and Mona Stella were all scratched.
Queen Goddess sports a mark of 11-6-2-1, $761,580. The dark bay is now 2-for-2 since selling for $1.525 million at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in November. That sale didn’t involve a change of scenery, since it just dissolved a partnership between Eclipse and her breeders, Tolo Thoroughbreds. She now races for Eclipse and new co-owner Barber.
“She’s matured,” Eclipse’s Aron Wellman said, going on to explain why her prior forays outside California hadn’t panned out. “She’s a filly we always thought would get better with age. The two times we sent her East were a very ambitious run in the Queen Elizabeth (II Challenge Cup [G1] at Keeneland in 2021) and a dirt try in the Bayakoa ([G3] at Oaklawn Park last February). She wasn’t quite ready for it. Today we felt good about our chances.”
Out of the stakes-placed Lemon Drop Kid mare Royal Story, Queen Goddess descends from Hall of Famer Heavenly Prize. A Breeders’ Cup trophy eluded Heavenly Prize, but might her great-great-granddaughter achieve that pinnacle? The lightly-raced five-year-old could capitalize on her home court advantage in the Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita in November.