Qatar Racing's Peace and War earned her shot at Breeders' Cup glory when taking Friday's opening day co-feature at Keeneland -- the Grade 1, $400,000 Alcibiades -- which is a "Win & You're In" race for the Juvenile Fillies.
The War Front filly's connections actually nominated her to all four "Win & You're In" contests for juveniles being held at Keeneland on opening weekend, including a pair of turf stakes, but were hoping for the Alcibiades to give her a first try over dirt. Peace and War made the field and not only took to the dirt but also overcame trouble in the lane to score her first stakes victory.
Jockey Julien Leparoux wasn't in any rush with Peace and War in the early going, allowing the bay miss to settle in the rear of the field as Take Charge Brandi and Fashion Alert battled it out up front through splits of :22 2/5, :45 3/5, 1:10 4/5 and 1:38 1/5. The filly, who just cleared quarantine last week and had a single work over the track, began making up ground rounding the turn while tucked about two wide.
Peace and War was full of run entering the stretch but found a wall of horses in front of her. The bay lass tried to go through a hole to Paige's inside, but that closed so quickly she checked hard off that rival's heels. Leparoux swung her out and she powered home to post a half-length win while finishing 1 1/16 miles over the wet-fast track in 1:44 4/5.
"She broke slow, but they were going fast in front of us, and that helped," Leparoux said. "I had breezed her before this race, and she handled the dirt fine. She was always traveling on the bridle. I knew as soon as I got her some room, she would have a nice kick because that's what she had done in the morning.
"She's very nice, very relaxed and nothing seems to bother her. They brought her here to give her a test on dirt. Now the big test will come at Santa Anita."
Peace and War wasn't given much chance by the wagering public, sent off at 23-1, and returned a nice $48.20 for the win. The Olly Stevens trainee keyed the 11-9-10-2 superfecta that paid out a lucrative $54,218.40 for a $2 ticket.
"We purchased her at Keeneland (at the September Yearling Sale) then took her back to England," Stevens said. "She won her first out then we caught some bad ground at Ascot in England, which is one of the main reasons we came over here. She's been back 12 days. (Leparoux) breezed her here on Sunday, the day I flew in, and he really liked her. He jumped off another filly to ride her, actually.
"She had a really tough trip, but she's always been a brave filly," he added about her trip in the Alcibiades. "I was very comfortable to have her in the rear (early), and when I saw how fast they were going, I was delighted."
When asked about the Breeders' Cup, Stevens replied, "(Going on to the Breeders' Cup) is very much in the plans. We just don't have the details in place yet."
Top Decile rallied for second at 5-1, 1 3/4 lengths up on 64-1 second longshot Pagie. It was another three parts of a length back to Milehigh Butterfly at 28-1.
"She is a classy two-year-old. She took a whole lot of dirt," jockey Rosie Napravnik praised her mount, Top Decile. "I could tell that everyone in front of me was dying so I said, 'I have the horse, now I just need the hole.' We found it and came a little wide into the stretch just to get through, but she ran an excellent race and I can't complain at all. It's not like she had anything easy today. I wouldn't trade places with anyone."
"I would have to think we would go to California (for the Breeders' Cup)," added the filly's trainer, Al Stall Jr. "We know she has :45 speed if she has to have it. We have been working on turning it off quite a bit this past month or so."
Naval Command, Fashion Alert, 2-1 favorite Gap Year, Take Charge Brandi, Calamity Kate, Taylor S, Innovative Idea and Slava completed the order under the wire following the scratch of Pangburn.
"We were on the outside but she broke well and I saved a little (ground) on the first turn," explained Gap Year's rider, Joel Rosario. "It looked like I was making a little move but she kind of (leveled off). She felt like she was moving really nicely in the turn but she didn't improve her position."
Peace and War entered the Alcibiades with just three prior starts to her credit. Ironically, she broke her maiden at first asking over Lingfield's Polytrack, the same type of track that Keeneland just removed in favor of returning to dirt. Next out the filly transferred to turf for the Albany at Royal Ascot and ran sixth before finishing a half-length second over Haydock Park's green on August 8.
With this Breeders' Cup prep now highlighting her 4-2-1-0 career line, Peace and War has banked $250,018 lifetime.
Bred in Florida by Sally J. Andersen, the bay filly sold for $300,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is the second registered foal out of the winning Smart Strike mare More Oats Please, who is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed multiple stakes queen Miss Valentine.
Peace and War's third dam is Grade 2 heroine Miss Baja.