Keeneland Barn Notes: QE II Could Be a Fantastic Race to the Finish

From the Keeneland Media Team:

When trainer Graham Motion won the first of his five Grade 1 stakes at Keeneland, the filly that delivered the triumphant performance had been in his barn her entire career.

That was Film Maker back in 2003. Should Secret Message give Motion a second victory in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1), she will do it as a relative newcomer to the stable.

“Bradley Weisbord bought her after her allowance win at Turfway (March 31) for the ownership group and she came to me after that,” Motion said of Secret Message, who is owned in partnership by Madaket Stables, ERJ Racing, Elayne Stable 5 and Bouchey Thoroughbred Ventures.

Once in Motion’s care, Secret Message transitioned to turf where she has compiled a 4-1-2-0 record with the victory coming in the Pucker Up (G3) at Arlington in August.

“She is a lovely, attractive filly and she does everything well in the morning,” Motion said of Secret Message, who was a fast-closing second in her most recent start in the Sands Point (G2) at Belmont on Sept. 15.

“She broke a step slow the first time she ran for us (in the Hilltop at Pimlico) and got stirred up at Churchill Downs (for the Regret-G3 under the lights) and acted up (at the gate).”

In the Pucker Up, she dropped back to the rear of the field after the break, “but it probably looks worse on paper (in the Past Performances), than it was,” Motion said.

Secret Message will be ridden for the first time Saturday by Jorge Vargas Jr.

“This is kind of a tricky weekend for riders with big races at Keeneland, Belmont and Woodbine,” Motion said. “Jorge rides most of my horses locally and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

That’s very, very special to do it at Tampa Bay,” an emotional O’Connell said after Well Defined’s two-and-three-quarter length victory from a charging Kentucky Wildcat in 1:42.70 for the mile-and-a-sixteenth, .26 seconds off 2018 winner Flameaway’s stakes record. So Alive finished a distant third, with the 19-10 favorite, Knicks Go, getting nipped for fourth at the wire by Counter Offer.

“He’s had little things that have happened and he’s grown up mentally and physically, and today he showed up with his game face on,” O’Connell said of the Florida-bred Well Defined, a son of With Distinction by Fru Fru, out of Medaglia d’Oro. “I like this horse a lot and the decision (on what’s next) will be up to the owners (Gilbert and Marilyn Campbell’s Stonehedge, LLC), but we just want him healthy. Maybe the (Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9) – who knows.”

“His rear end slipped out from underneath him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile,” she said, “and he was compromised on early position when he ran in the Mucho Macho Man and got bottled up inside. He’s a young horse who is improving, mind-wise and everything-wise.”

KATHLEEN O’CONNELL, TRAINER OF WINNER WELL DEFINED

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