The versatile Harvey’s Lil Goil has proven her class on both dirt and turf, but Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) suggested that grass might be her optimal surface at the top level. Using her tactical speed to good effect at Keeneland, the blueblood daughter of American Pharoah got the jump on Micheline and 8-5 favorite Magic Attitude to score a career high.
Harvey’s Lil Goil, who had been third to eventual Preakness (G1) vixen Swiss Skydiver in the Alabama (G1) two back, was just denied by Micheline in the Sept. 10 Dueling Grounds Oaks. But it was tougher to maintain her advantage in that 1 5/16-mile test over the unique course at Kentucky Downs, and the cutback around a more conventional circuit helped Harvey’s Lil Goil.
The scratch of her stablemate from the Bill Mott barn, Antoinette, affected the pace scenario. Her absence left the 5-2 Sweet Melania as the controlling speed. Harvey’s Lil Goil, the 7-2 third choice, broke to her inside on the rail, but jockey Martin Garcia let the pacesetter go before angling around and setting up shop in a preferable outside prompting position.
After attending Sweet Melania through fractions of :23.89, :47.75, and 1:12.16 on the good course, Harvey’s Lil Goil powered away from the other “Pharoah” filly in a decisive move in upper stretch.
Micheline had been in striking range until the far turn, when she was floated out wide, got outpaced, and lost precious position. Micheline found her gears the farther they went down the lane, but too late. Harvey’s Lil Goil was still three-quarters of a length on top while finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.72.
Magic Attitude didn’t display the same spark as in the 1 1/4-mile Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) and settled for third, a half-length astern of Micheline. The same margin away in fourth was Red Lark, who was validating her 19-1 upset of the Del Mar Oaks (G1). California Kook edged Hendy Woods for fifth, and Sweet Melania dropped back to an uncharacteristic last. Lucky Betty was scratched.
“She has a lot of natural speed,” Garcia told Keeneland publicity. “She’s fast – you can do whatever you want. After the break, I moved outside and she was really comfortable by herself. When it was time to go, I asked and she responded.”
A homebred racing for the Estate of Harvey A. Clarke in partnership with Paul Braverman, Harvey’s Lil Goil improved her scorecard to 8-4-1-1, $561,529. The gray romped in the Feb. 2 Busanda to put herself on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail, but a toss-out 11th in the Fantasy (G3) put her back on turf next time.
Garcia engineered a similar stalk-and-pounce trip in the June 27 Regret (G3) at Churchill Downs, where she prevailed by a head, and Micheline was a belated sixth. While the turf-to-dirt move didn’t totally succeed in the Alabama, Harvey’s Lil Goil did turn in a respectable effort behind Swiss Skydiver, just losing second late to Bonny South. Her Dueling Grounds Oaks was a case of being mugged on the line.
“We were pretty confident with her,” assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy said of her chances Saturday. “She ran a super race for us at Kentucky Downs in her last out, and had trained really well in between. She’s a little superstar. She pretty much goes on any surface for us. At least in my mind, I think the turf probably is a little bit easier for her to handle.”
McCarthy would not be drawn into speculation on whether Harvey’s Lil Goil might advance to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), also at Keeneland.
“I read a comment that Mr. Mott wasn’t ruling anything out. I’ll leave it at that.”
The Kentucky-bred’s Grade 1 coup has added to her terrific page. Her dam, Gloria S, is a Tapit half-sister to 2012 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness champion I’ll Have Another as well as multiple Grade 3 winner Golden Award.