10/13/2006 11:00PM

Vacare 4 for 4 after QE II victory

Vacare, with Carlos Marquez up, wins the Queen Elizabeth II on Saturday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Vacare answered all the questions about whether she would match up with some of the world's top 3-year-old fillies by remaining undefeated with a dramatic victory Saturday in the 23rd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 at Keeneland.

"She proved she belongs," said Chris Block, the Chicago-based trainer who conditions Vacare for the Lothenbach Stables and who was registering the first Grade 1 triumph of his 17-year career. "This feels phenomenal."

Getting a flawless ride from Carlos Marquez Jr., Vacare returned $15.60 after finishing a half-length ahead of Mauralakana. Quiet Royal was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third, while Germance, the 2-1 favorite who was making her North American debut, finished fourth, and Magnificent Song, the 5-2 second choice, was never a factor, running sixth in a field of 11.

Before a crowd of 23,473, and amid cool but sunny weather, Vague set the early pace while pressed closest by another longshot, Maxxi Arte. Meanwhile, Vacare, who had been rank to settle early, was coiled to strike after finding a perfect position in third. Down the stretch, she bounded to the lead and was kept under urging, holding off a steady run by Mauralakana, the 5-1 third choice.

Mauralakana, ridden by Julien Leparoux, also had a good trip in fifth and was closing resolutely but was unable to get to the winner. "Every time I came to the winner, she would kick away again," said Leparoux.

Vacare, a Lothenbach homebred by Lear Fan out of the Valid Appeal mare Appealing Storm, had been unchallenged in three previous starts, all on the Arlington Park turf. The QE II followed easy wins in a maiden race, an allowance race, and the Grade 3 Pucker Up.

Block said he might have been somewhat intimidated by the depth of the QE II when he first delved into the past performances on Friday night, but he eventually talked himself into believing Vacare would win.

"I convinced myself she could do it," said Block. "She had answered the call every time, and she did it again today. This filly is really taking us places."

With her impressive score, Vacare became a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs, where she would meet older horses at 1 3/8 miles.

The winning time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:48.42 over firm going.