01/06/2015 4:48PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Crown Queen

Coady Photography/Keeneland

Fittingly for a filly with royal bloodlines, Crown Queen was perfect in four starts in 2014, earning a nomination for the Eclipse Award as champion turf female.

Such an achievement has been expected for most of her life. Crown Queen is a half-sister to Royal Delta, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2011 and the champion older female of 2012 and 2013. When Royal Delta was at the end of her 2011 season, Crown Queen was purchased for $1.6 million as a weanling at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale by Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables.

Crown Queen had a quiet 2-year-old campaign in 2013, finishing third in two maiden races at Saratoga and Belmont Park. She was unbeaten at 3.
Trained by Bill Mott in New York, Crown Queen won her 2014 debut in a maiden race at Belmont Park in June, followed a month later by a comprehensive four-length win in an allowance race on turf on the opening weekend of the Saratoga meeting.

At the time, Mott saw the potential in Crown Queen that Royal Delta displayed.

“She’s much smaller, certainly not as massive as Royal Delta,” Mott said. “We kind of knew all along she’s need grass, but I saw an explosive type of move that maybe the other mare had, too.”

The win was a talking point around the Saratoga barn area.

“I had people commenting on it for two days afterward,” Mott said in reflection.

Crown Queen made her stakes debut in the Lake Placid Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Aug. 16. The 5-4 favorite in a field of only four runners, Crown Queen was confidently ridden by John Velazquez. Crown Queen was second for most of the race and led in deep stretch to win by a half-length.

Once again, comparisons with Royal Delta were inevitable.

“She has the same class and determination as her sister,” Mott said in the winner’s circle.

There was one more start for Crown Queen in 2014. Mott trained her to the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 11. The Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies almost always draws a stellar field, with runners from throughout the United States and occasionally Europe competing.

There were seven fillies in the 2014 Queen Elizabeth II, and Crown Queen was the 5-2 favorite. Ridden again by Velazquez, Crown Queen displayed her typical style of racing just behind the leaders as the race developed. She took the lead in early stretch and won by three-quarters of a length over Ball Dancing, the winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont Park in September.

Leon and Mott opted to end Crown Queen’s season after the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. They could have sent her to California for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in early November, which would have been the first start for Crown Queen in a stakes outside of her age group.

Instead, Crown Queen sat out the rest of the year, finishing with 2014 earnings of $576,000 and a position as a leader in the turf female division. It was a conservative campaign but one that turned out to be a massive success.

“Mr. Leon made the decision to let her grow up and mature, and it was the right call,” Mott said.

In the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, Leon received the coveted Grade 1 win every owner seeks, and a massive dividend on his seven-figure investment in 2011. Equally as important, Leon has a filly who figures to play an important role in major stakes in 2015.