10/11/2014 5:14PM

Crown Queen provides Mott with special win in QE II Challenge Cup

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Crown Queen, ridden by John Velazquez, remains unbeaten in four starts this season by taking the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Bill Mott has had many memorable weeks in racing, and this had to be one of them.

Just days after learning of the death of Cigar, the greatest horse he ever trained during his Hall of Fame career, Mott was on hand Saturday to saddle the victorious Crown Queen in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, the sixth and final Grade 1 race of the Keeneland fall meet.

Giving John Velazquez yet another huge win at Keeneland, Crown Queen had a perfect stalking trip, overtaking Sea Queen in the upper stretch before holding off a sustained run by Ball Dancing to win the 1 1/8-mile turf race by three-quarters of a length. She returned $7.20 to win as a slight favorite in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies after finishing in 1:49.98 over a soft course.

Crown Queen, purchased as a weanling for $1.6 million by the Besilu Stable of Benjamin Leon in November 2011 at Keeneland, is a half-sister to the multiple champion Royal Delta, who also raced under the white and burgundy Besilu silks. She was sired by Smart Strike and produced by Delta Princess.

“This is a special win for me,” said Mott. “I trained the mother, the grandmother, a lot of the family.”

Before an ontrack crowd of 21,295, and amid chilly and dank conditions, Sea Queen led through splits of 24.58 seconds, 48.80, and 1:13.15, but Velazquez always had his mount in close proximity and ready to pounce. After turning for home, she did just that, and although Ball Dancing came with a sustained run to nearly draw even inside the furlong pole, the winner had plenty left to prevail.

The trip “was perfect,” said Velazquez, the Hall of Fame jockey who rode the winners of three Grade 1 races here the previous Saturday – Dayatthespa in the First Lady, Carpe Diem in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, and Wise Dan in the Shadwell Turf Mile.

“I had to get her nice and relaxed into the first turn, and then she settled real well,” said Velazquez. “Down the lane she had plenty of run. From then on it was all her.”

Crown Queen was defeated in both starts at 2, after which she was given time over the winter. She has been a completely different animal at 3, having won all four starts, all on turf in New York: a maiden race in June, an allowance race in July, and the Grade 2 Lake Placid in August.

“Mr. Leon made the decision to let her grow up and mature, and it was the right call,” said Mott. “She’s still unbeaten on the year and a Grade 1 winner.”

Asked about her next race, Mott said: “That goes to the drawing board.”

Ball Dancing, the 5-2 second choice, finished two lengths ahead of Sistas Stroll and Personal Diary, who finished in a dead-heat for third. Then came Minorette, Sea Queen, and Speed Seeker. Aurelia’s Belle and Daring Dancer were early scratches.

Earlier this week, Mott spoke fondly of Cigar, the two-time Horse of the Year who died Tuesday night at age 24, saying, “he changed my life.”