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The Racing Dudes react to Gina Romantica winning the 2022 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, posting the upset over her Chad Brown stablemate McKulick. Should either filly return in 3 weeks for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup over this same course? Watch the replay for the Racing Dudes’ INSTANT reactions, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Peter Brant’s Gina Romantica drove between pacesetting Paris Peacock (IRE) and Bellabel (IRE) passing the three-sixteenths pole and went on to win the 39th running of the $600,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana for 3-year-old fillies by 1¾ lengths over favored stablemate McKulick (GB).
Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Flavien Prat, Gina Romantica completed the 1 1/8 miles on a firm turf course in 1:48.20. The victory is the fifth in the race for Brown, who previously won with Dayatthespa (2012), Rushing Fall (2018), Cambier Parc (2019) and Shantisara (IRE) in 2021 with Prat riding the latter.
Brown has won 40 stakes at Keeneland.
The 1-2 result in today’s stakes was the second Grade 1 exacta finish of the Fall Meet for Brown, whose In Italian (GB) and Regal Glory formed the exacta in last Saturday’s First Lady (G1) Presented by UK HealthCare.
Paris Peacock led the field of six through fractions of :23.66, :48.22 and 1:12.83 with Bellabel in closest pursuit with Gina Romantica running next to the rail and McKulick in the three path running third and fourth.
The leaders were unchanged entering the stretch when Prat tipped Gina Romantica off the rail, shot between Paris Peacock and Bellabel, went to the front at the eighth pole and drew clear for the victory.
A Keeneland sales grad, Gina Romantica is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Into Mischief out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Special Me. In posting her first graded stakes victory, Gina Romantica improved her record to 7-4-1-0, picked up $367,350 with the win and increased her earnings to $553,540.
Gina Romantica returned $11.06, $3.90 and $2.56. McKulick, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., returned $2.60 and $2.10 and finished a neck in front of Bellabel, who paid $2.58 to show under Umberto Rispoli.
It was another head back to California Angel in fourth with She’s Gone and Paris Peacock following in order.
Chad Brown (winning trainer of Gina Romantica and runner-up McKulick-GB)
On reasons for her improvement
“Getting her out there in distance a little more, and she has more experience on the turf (made the difference from her last race at Belmont at the Big A, when she was second in the Pebbles-G3). She caught a clean break and I thought (jockey) Flavien (Prat) rode a terrific race. She proved she can get the extra distance and step up with top-class fillies.”
On how he got Gina Romantica to peak
“A lot of patience and a lot of Plan B and C with a horse we thought first was a dirt horse. I want to thank Liz Crow and her team for picking the horse out. She was born and raised locally, right here in Lexington at Machmer Hall, and she’s a Keeneland (sales) graduate. We’ve had so many great horses that we bought here. (Of our) five Queen Elizabeth (wins), this is probably the most memorable, obviously, with the recent passing of The Queen. What an honor even to participate in the race, but to have such success in it—we’re just really lucky to work with these horses.”
Flavien Prat (winning jockey)
“She broke really well. I actually was okay to make the lead, but the pace was fast so I got myself tucked in. She relaxed well and really kicked on well when it was time to make a move. (I knew it was time to make a move) once I got the gap (at the top of the stretch). Turning for home I got a good gap and squeezed on in and she responded really well.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (rider of McKulick)
“It was a perfect trip. She broke good. I got a perfect spot on the backside. I have no excuses. The other filly (Gina Romantica) was better today. She cut the corner and everything opened up for her. She was there and gave a good turn of foot.”
Umberto Rispoli (rider of third-place finisher Bellabell-IRE)
“She ran amazing. I had a very good trip outside the leader and I could play it either way. At the top of the stretch, I was trying to get a jump on the others. She was quick to respond. The favorite (McKulick) got me for second. The winner was fantastic today.”
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