In terms of running style, Queen Goddess  displayed a new trick Jan. 28 when she raced just off the pace early in the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational Stakes (G3T) before rallying in the far turn and taking command in the stretch to deliver a 1 1/2-length victory.

Queen Goddess completed the 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park in 1:41.91 on firm turf.

Campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Gary Barber, the 5-year-old Empire Maker mare had led through the early going of her past two races, yielding late two back in the Santa Barbara Stakes (G3T) before posting a gate-to-wire score in the Dec. 31 Robert J. Frankel Stakes (G3T) at Santa Anita Park.

On Saturday, Queen Goddess tracked in fourth through a half-mile in :48.03, racing 1 1/2 lengths behind early leader Sweet Enough . After gaining ground through the far turn under jockey Luis Saez, the eventual winner took command near the quarter pole and had sufficient energy to hold off a stretch challenge from fellow grade 1 winner Shantisara .

Saez said the plan all along was to track just off the leaders.

“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,” Saez said. “It was perfect.”

Queen Goddess and Luis Saez win the TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational S. presented by PEPSI (Gr. 3) Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, FL, Jan. 28, 2023, Mathea Kelley
Photo: Mathea Kelley

Queen Goddess on the way to victory in the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational Stakes

Lady Rockstar  rallied for third, with Dalika  fourth and 2-1 favorite Wakanaka  fifth.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., aboard Shantisara, said his mare broke slowly, forcing him to “drop in and wait” in the early stages.

Trained by Southern California-based Mike McCarthy, Queen Goddess handled the cross-country voyage well to secure the most lucrative victory of her 11-race career and first graded stakes win away from Santa Anita. She earned her sixth victory overall and fourth graded stakes score while improving her earnings to $761,580.

Aron Wellman, president and founder of Eclipse Thoroughbreds, said the trip east was never a concern when the decision was made to send Queen Goddess, winner of an off-the-turf edition of the 2021 American Oaks (G1), to South Florida for the Pegasus.

“She’s matured,” Wellman said. “She’s a filly we always thought would get better with age.”

Two prior attempts outside California came when she traveled for the 2020 Queen Elizabetth II Challenge Cup (G1T) at Keeneland and for the 2021 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) to run on dirt at Oaklawn Park. She finished fifth in both races.

“She wasn’t quite ready for it,” Wellman said. “Today we felt good about our chances.”

Queen Goddess had raced most of her career for her breeder, TOLO Thoroughbreds, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. This fall as part of the Ballysax Bloodstock consignment, she sold for $1,525,000 at The November Sale at Fasig-Tipton, in what amounted to Barber buying out TOLO Thoroughbreds.

Bred in Kentucky, Queen Goddess is out of the stakes-placed Lemon Drop Kid  mare Royal Story . Her second dam, Bauble  (Tale of the Cat ), is an unraced half sister to grade 1 winner Persistently .