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Mawj won the 2023 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in what was likely a prep for her next start in the Breeders’ Cup.
Is the 3-year-old Godolphin homebred a better fit for the Filly & Mare Turf or the Mile? Watch the replay & get the Racing Dudes’ expert analysis, then tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Godolphin’s homebred Mawj (IRE) grabbed the lead out of the gate and maintained her position all the way to post a half-length victory over Lindy (FR) in the 40th running of the $501,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.
Trained by Saeed bin Suroor and ridden by Oisin Murphy, Mawj covered the 1 1/8 miles over a turf course rated as good in 1:48.06. It is the first Keeneland stakes victory for Murphy as well as for bin Suroor, who collected his 500th career grade or group victory.
Mawj was first out of the gate with Elusive Princess (FR) and Mission of Joy to her inside, but she assumed a clear lead going into the first turn. From there, she raced unopposed on the lead through fractions of :23.26, :47.72 and 1:11.89.
Going into the final turn, Elusive Princess applied a little pressure only to have Mawj kick clear again. In the stretch, Mission of Joy passed a tiring Elusive Princess to challenge Mawj only to have the Godolphin runner fend off that bid and have enough left in the tank to hold off a final challenge from Lindy.
Coming on the heels of a victory in the English One Thousand Guineas (G1) on May 7 at Newmarket, Mawj extended her 2023 undefeated streak to four and improved her overall record to 9-6-1-1. A daughter of Exceed And Excel out of the New Approach mare Modern Ideals, Mawj is a half-sister to champion and two-time Breeders’ Cup winner Modern Games (IRE).
The victory was worth $294,500 and increased Mawj’s earnings to $956,585.
Sent off as the favorite in the field of nine, Mawj returned $4.62, $3.14 and $2.74. Lindy, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, returned $5.30 and $3.64 and finished a half-length in front of Mission of Joy, who paid $8.76 to show under John Velazquez.
It was another 1½ lengths back to Elusive Princess, who was followed in order by Sounds of Heaven (GB), Liguria, Elounda Queen (IRE), Papilio (IRE) and Freydis the Red (FR).
Saeed bin Suroor (winning trainer of Mawj-IRE)
“Thank God. This is great (for me) to win 500 (grade and) group (races) and a Group 1 with the filly Mawj (IRE), a classic winner. To come to America, to Keeneland, to win is a great result for everybody.”
On whether he believes she would fit better in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) against males or the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at 1¼ miles:
“It looks to me she has plenty of speed as a miler and she made it today 9 furlongs. But we’ll see. The mile might be the best for her, sure, but I want to decide closer to the race.”
Oisin Murphy (winning rider)
“(Trainer) Saeed (bin Suroor) was delighted with her work at home and he asked me to sit on her last week just before she flew (to the U.S.) and she felt brilliant. She felt back to her best. We did quite quick sections (fractions) in the first half of the race, but she is a superstar filly. She found plenty. She’s got a great heart and mind. I’m delighted to win for (owner) Godolphin and Saeed here; it’s his 500th group winner, so for me to ride it for him means the world.”
Brendan Walsh (trainer of runner-up Lindy-FR)
“She ran super. You couldn’t really ask her to run any better. We’re disappointed that we didn’t win because she was flying so fast at the end, but I am not disappointed in her and I am not disappointed in (jockey) Tyler (Gaffalione) or anyone on our team. I am proud of them all.
“She’s really turned into a lovely filly, and I think she can be a helluva filly going forward. She’s very versatile, and I think she can do anything between a mile and a mile and 3/16ths. We’ll go back to the drawing board and see where we go from here.”
Tyler Gaffalione (rider of Lindy-FR)
“We just got a little further back then we would’ve liked to, last position going into the first turn, but my filly traveled great throughout. She gave me a huge run down the lane. Very proud of her, but a little upsetting that we didn’t get the win. We feel like we had the best horse, but we’ll get there.”
John Velazquez (rider of third-place finisher Mission of Joy)
“I expected the trip that I had. I got a little excited going to the eighth pole (because I thought Mission of Joy would win). She just gave me everything she had to run a really good race.”
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