Queen Goddess has not raced in seven months, but trainer Michael McCarthy thinks she still has the ability to win Saturday’s Grade 3 Robert Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita.
“She’s as good now as she was before,” McCarthy said on Thursday. “She seems like she’s coming into this in good order. She’s had multiple decent works over the dirt surface.”
Queen Goddess was in the best form of her career when she was turned out in May after a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Santa Barbara Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita. The $100,000 Frankel is run at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Other than the presence of 10 rivals, McCarthy’s main concern about Queen Goddess in the Frankel is the race distance.
“A mile and an eighth is good for her,” he said. “A mile and a quarter is even better.”
Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber, Queen Goddess drew post 10 in a field of 11. Queen Goddess is one of four graded stakes winners in a field that includes five other stakes winners.
Queen Goddess won the Grade 1 American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles in December 2021, a race transferred from turf to dirt because of inclement weather. There is a chance the $100,000 Frankel Stakes also will be taken off the turf if forecast afternoon rain hits earlier than expected. The Frankel Stakes will be run as the third race on a nine-race program in an effort to run the race before rain starts.
Queen Goddess, who can set the pace or race from a tracking position, won the Grade 3 Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on turf last March, her lone stakes win on turf in three such races.
The Frankel distance suits Quattroelle, who was second in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Nov. 24, and Closing Remarks, who has not raced since a fourth-place finish in the Santa Ana.
Quatroelle tends to run from a tracking position, while Closing Remarks is a closer.
A clean trip in a large field will be vital for Closing Remarks as well as for England’s Rose and Avenue de France, two other formidable closers.
England’s Rose, trained by John Shirreffs, was second in two recent stakes at a mile on turf – the Grade 2 Goldikova Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 29 and the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar on Dec. 4.
“I thought she put a couple of nice races together,” Shirreffs said.
In the Matriarch, England’s Rose raced in traffic on the turn and closed well to be second. She never threatened the heavy favorite Regal Glory, who won by five lengths.
Avenue de France, the winner of the Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Sept. 10, was a dull fifth in the Goldikova and fifth again in the Matriarch, missing second by only a half-length. This may be the final starts for Avenue de France and England’s Rose, who are entered in the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.