Sophomore Turf Fillies Enjoy Saturday Spotlight

McKulick | Sarah Andrew

Trainer Chad Brown will saddle the top two choices on the morning-line for Saturday's GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S. at Keeneland, one of three graded stakes races on the afternoon.

McKulick (GB) (Frankel {GB}), the even-money choice to become Brown's fifth winner in this prestigious affair, broke through with a career high in the GI Belmont Oaks Invitational S. July 9 and added the GIII Jockey Club Oaks Invitational S. at Aqueduct Sept. 17 two starts later. She cuts back in trip to 1 1/8 miles here.

McKulick is named in honor of Brown's first-ever employee, bookkeeper Mary McKulick. McKulick passed away two years ago at the age of 67 after losing a battle with cancer.

Brown will also be represented by Gina Romantica (Into Mischief), heroine of Saratoga's Riskaverse S. Aug. 25 and runner-up as the favorite in the GIII Pebbles S. at Aqueduct Sept. 18 in her first two tries on grass.

'TDN Rising Star' New Year's Eve (Kitten's Joy), upset winner over McKulick in the GII Edgewood S. in the spring, cuts back in trip as well following a flat fourth as the favorite in the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs Sept. 5.

Bellabel (Ire) (Belardo {Ire}) ships in from Phil D'Amato's Southern California base following a solid second-place finish behind the talented Spendarella (Karakontie {Jpn}) in the GI Del Mar Oaks Aug. 20. She may have a pace advantage over her six rivals in a race lacking early speed.

Last term's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), meanwhile, is the one to beat in Saturday's GII Sands Point S. at the Belmont at the Big A meeting. The 5-2 morning-line favorite makes her first trip to the post for Christophe Clement since an eighth-place finish in the G1 Coronation S. at Royal Ascot June 17. The field of nine also includes Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks one-two Vergara (Noble Mission {GB}) and Skims (GB) (Frankel {GB}); and narrow GIII Lake George S. runner-up Eminent Victor (Mr. Z).

Saturday's graded action is rounded out by Woodbine's GIII Ontario Fashion S.

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