08/23/2010 1:36PM

Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth next target for Evening Jewel

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Benoit & Associates
Evening Jewel, winning her fourth stakes of 2010 in the Del Mar Oaks, will be pointed to the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.

DEL MAR, Calif. - She has won graded stakes at Keeneland, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar this year, and lost Grade 1 races at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs by just a nose. The turf course at Keeneland is the next target for the Evening Jewel, who won her fourth stakes of 2010 in Saturday’s Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

Evening Jewel will be pointed for the $400,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Oct. 16, trainer Jim Cassidy said over the weekend. It may be dangerous to bet against her.

In the Del Mar Oaks, Evening Jewel overcame trouble on the turn and rallied on the rail before winning by a half-length over Harmonious, the winner of the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park last month. For Evening Jewel, the victory was her third consecutive stakes win on turf, preceded by the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park in May and the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap here on July 25.

But the style of the Del Mar Oaks left trainer Jim Cassidy impressed.

“When he switched gears and went inside, I realized how athletic she is,” Cassidy said.

Owned by Tom and Marilyn Braly, Evening Jewel has not lost since finishing second by a nose to Blind Luck in the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. Blind Luck has emerged as the nation’s leading 3-year-old filly, a point emphasized by a win in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday.

Evening Jewel’s forte has been turf this year, and giving Cassidy and his staff fits at the barn.

“She gets so antsy before the race,” Marilyn Braly said. “What Jim has done to keep from going over the top is unbelievable.”

Free Flying Soul needs surgery

Free Flying Soul, the morning-line favorite in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap for older female sprinters on Sunday, was withdrawn the morning of the race after developing an ankle chip that will require surgery, according to Karen Headley, the top assistant to her father, trainer Bruce Headley.

Free Flying Soul, 5, had finished second as the favorite to Sweet August Moon in the A Gleam Handicap last month at Hollywood Park.

Her absence made things easier for Sweet August Moon, who needed to only beat three rivals in the Rancho Bernardo. The victory was the second straight stakes score for Sweet August Moon, and now has her connections setting their sights on the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

“I think we’re back where we were a year ago,” said Brian Koriner, who trains Sweet August Moon for Team MacPherson and the Legacy Ranch of Pete and Evelyn Parella.

Sweet August Moon, 5, won three straight races in the early part of 2009, including the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita, before going to the sidelines for nine months. She lost her first four starts this year before winning her last pair.

“It took her a while to get up to her best following the layoff,” Koriner said. “She’s a big mare. And she’s temperamental.”

Koriner was gratified with the win because he said Sweet August Moon “didn’t train that great over the surface.”

“Hopefully she can jump up when she goes to dirt, like so many of the horses from California,” he said.

Lookin At Lucky, who won the Haskell, and Blind Luck, who won the Alabama, are the most prominent horses this summer who have leaped forward on dirt after training on Polytrack here.

Koriner also won the Green Flash last week with California Flag, who is being pointed to a defense of his Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint title.

“If I was only going to win two races this week, those were the two,” he said.

Crown of Thorns begins comeback in Pat O’Brien

Crown of Thorns, unraced since finishing second by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November, will start in Saturday’s $300,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes, a Grade 1 that trainer Richard Mandella said could lead to a start in the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

Crown of Thorns was diagnosed with an ulcer after the 2009 BC Sprint and was rested again in February after he showed signs of soreness. There have been no setbacks since Crown of Thorns resumed training in the spring.

“He acts like he’s good as gold,” Mandella said.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Crown of Thorns has won 2 of 6 starts and $577,060. Crown of Thorns, 5, made three starts last year, the most of his career in a season. Consequently, Mandella is not looking too far behind the Pat O’Brien.

“This is a Grade 1 and it’s enough to worry about,” he said. “I think he’ll like seven furlongs.”

Smiling Tiger, who won the first Grade 1 race for sprinters at the meeting in the Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs on Aug. 1, is another probable starter, trainer Jeff Bonde said. A 3-year-old, Smiling Tiger made his first start in a stakes against older horses in the Bing Crosby.

Exercise rider Barnes breaks leg

Dana Barnes, an exercise rider for trainer Bob Baffert, sustained a broken leg in an accident at the barn on Saturday morning, Baffert said.

Barnes, the wife of Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, was injured when she was unseated from a horse that she was preparing to take to the track for exercise, Baffert said. “She came off and landed wrong,” Baffert said.

◗ Dancing in Silks, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, is getting ever closer to returning to action for trainer Carla Gaines. He worked six furlongs on Monday morning at Del Mar in 1:12.60, the best time of 10 at the distance. He is eligible to the $75,000 Pirate’s Bounty Handicap on closing day, Sept. 8.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman