by Teresa Genaro
It’s been quite a few weeks for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
On May 21, the day of the 143rd Preakness Stakes (G1), her grandson Harry married Meghan Markle. On June 2, she celebrated the 65th anniversary of her coronation.
And on June 8, her homebred Call to Mind won the $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational (G2), possibly her first win in the United States since Unknown Quantity triumphed in the Arlington Handicap (G1) in 1989.
Favored in the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup when sent off at 9-5, Call to Mind settled in second under Javier Castellano after breaking from post 1. Asked by Castellano to move coming around the final turn, the four-year-old bay colt took the lead in the stretch and won by a length over the firm turf in a final time of 3:16.78, a course record.
“We knew this was the kindest track in America; it’s such a lovely turf course and so well taken care of,” racing manager John Warren said.
The race was Call to Mind’s first outside of Europe. Seven of his previous starts came in England while the other one, a neck second-place finish in the Prix Chaudenay (Fr-G2), took place at Chantilly in France.
According to Warren, the Queen stayed up to watch the race and he dashed from the winner’s circle to call her before she went to bed.
“She was absolutely thrilled,” he said.
At first perplexed by getting a busy signal at Buckingham Palace, he was investigating possible problems on the Belmont phone lines when the Queen rang him directly, telling him that “the lines were down at Buckingham Palace.”
Call to Mind is by Galileo out of the Group 2-winning Danehill Dancer mare Memory, a pedigree that seemed to delight Warren as he considered the colt’’s success.
“What makes a mockery of breeding,” he said, “is that his dam was a brilliantly fast mare at six furlongs and bred a brilliant two-year-old that didn’t stay beyond seven furlongs.”
Castellano was in the saddle for the first time, and Warren said the pace of the race was crucial to Call to Mind’s success.
“Everything went very smoothly in his travel and training here,” Warren said, “which put tremendous pressure on the jockey to get everything right. Mr. Castellano had ridden in eight previous races today, and I thought he’d be absolutely exhausted having to ride two miles.”
Punctuating his remarks with laughter, Warren continued, “That proved absolutely unfounded. He rode an absolutely brilliant race and was fit as a flea. He got the fractions exactly as we asked him to do.”
One of four horses in the race who have run primarily outside the United States, Call to Mind ran without Lasix, as did fifth-placer finisher Funny Kid.
“We didn’t feel that we needed to go there,” the racing manager said. “There was no policy about it; we just felt, ‘Why?’ when he didn’t need any form of medication. He’s an uncomplicated horse to train, so he didn’t need a crutch.”
As Call to Mind returned to the winner’s circle, the Belmont crowd cried repeatedly, “God Save the Queen!” Perhaps fittingly, as Belmont lies less than 20 miles from the Battle of Long Island, in what is now Brooklyn, an early Revolutionary War battle that was a decisive English victory.
And while the young colonies eventually came to assert their independence and separate from England, for one afternoon in June, the monarchy exerted a small measure of revenge.