Racing Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has notched eight of his 24 Keeneland stakes wins in Grade 1 races, but one Grade 1 that has eluded him is the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End.
On Saturday, Stuart Janney III’s homebred On Leave will represent McGaughey’s first starter in the race since Starry Dreamer finished fourth in 1997.
“She just keeps getting better,” said Reeve McGaughey, assistant to his father, about On Leave. “She has won four straight and won in four different ways, but this is her toughest test yet.”
On Leave comes into Saturday’s race off a wire-to-wire score in the Sands Point (G2) at the QE II distance of 1 1/8 miles. All four of her victories have come this year following an eight-month layoff after completing a brief 2-year-old campaign last October.
“She just needed a little time to mature and it has worked out nicely,” McGaughey said of the layoff for On Leave, who is a half-sister to four graded stakes winners including Ironicus, who was a fast-closing second in last Saturday’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1).
The Janney-McGaughey combination could get off to a good start for the weekend Friday when Fair Point starts in the $ 100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) for fillies and mares going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.
“She won a small stakes in her last start and she, too, is getting better and better,” McGaughey said. “She had worked on the grass at Payson (Park training center early in the year) and a couple of Dad’s assistants wanted to get her on the grass.”
Fair Point has responded with two victories and a second in her three grass starts with the win in the Smart N Fancy at Saratoga coming at 5 1/2 furlongs.
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