HOT SPRINGS, ARK.—Southern California-based Queen Goddess will try to make the most of her extended stay in Arkansas when the Grade 1 winner faces six rivals in the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn.
The Bayakoa originally was scheduled Feb. 5 before being postponed because of a winter storm that closed the track last weekend. The Bayakoa was redrawn Monday, with the original cast of seven again entered. Probable post time for the 1 1/16-mile Bayakoa, the eighth of 11 races, is 3:47 p.m. (Central). The 10th race is the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. First post Saturday is 12:10 p.m.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Queen Goddess exits a front-running 2 ¾-length victory in the $300,000 American Oaks (G1) for 3-year-old fillies Dec. 26 at Santa Anita. The 1 ¼-mile American Oaks, moved from the grass to the main track because of rain, marked the dirt debut of Queen Goddess, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker who races for her breeder, TOLO Thoroughbreds, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
McCarthy said Queen Goddess arrived in Hot Springs Feb. 1 after being flown via FedEx to Memphis and vanned approximately 190 miles.
“Little bit of a curveball with the weather,” McCarthy said Tuesday afternoon. “Not something we get much of out here in California. But the filly seems like she’s doing well, even with the extended stay.”
Queen Goddess worked an easy half-mile in :53.40 Monday in advance of the Bayakoa, which is a major local prep for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 12 and, ultimately, the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 23. The Azeri and Apple Blossom are also 1 1/16-mile races.
Queen Goddess made her first five career starts on grass, breaking her maiden at 1 1/16 miles Aug. 7 at Del Mar and finishing fifth in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 16 at Keeneland.
McCarthy said he considered staying home for the $100,000 Megahertz Stakes (G3) at 1 mile on the turf Jan. 29 at Santa Anita before opting to keep Queen Goddess on dirt and shipping to Oaklawn.
“Nothing out here kind of made sense on the schedule,” McCarthy said. “We gave some thought to the Megahertz. Her race on the dirt was so good in the American Oaks. Thought we would go back there and try our hand on that surface and if she adapted well to it, took well to it, obviously would give some thought to the Apple Blossom in the spring.”
McCarthy won the 2020 Apple Blossom with Ce Ce, among three finalists for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion female sprinter of 2021. Ce Ce punctuated her 2021 campaign with a victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar. She finished second in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) last Saturday at Santa Anita in her 6-year-old debut.
McCarthy said Ce Ce could return to Oaklawn this year, adding much may hinge on Queen Goddess’ performance in the Bayakoa.
“I’d like for you to see both of these there in the spring,” McCarthy said.
Queen Goddess has a 3-1-1 record and career earnings of $303,080. The Bayakoa will be her second start outside California.
The projected Bayakoa field from the rail out: Matera, Florent Geroux to ride, 119 pounds, 3-1 on the morning line; Miss Bigly, Ramon Vazquez, 119, 9-2; She’s All Wolfe, Francisco Arrieta, 119, 12-1; Jilted Bride, Joel Rosario, 119, 8-1; Mariah’s Princess, Martin Garcia, 119, 5-1; Queen Goddess, David Cabrera, 119, 3-1; and Coach, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 5-2.
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl won last year’s Bayakoa for trainer Brad Cox, who will send out Matera and Coach.