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.”

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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