Empress Josephine (blue silks), left, finished third in the Grade 1 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 9, 2021. Keeneland/Coady Photography.

Connections Hoping History Repeats Itself With Empress Josephine in QEII

By Alicia Hughes

Ten years ago, a daughter of Galileo (IRE) trained by Aidan O’Brien made the most of her stay at Keeneland when she wheeled back one week after a loss in the First Lady Stakes (G1) and ended up winning the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). On Oct. 16, the Coolmore connections hope to celebrate the anniversary of that triumph by recreating the moment in real time.

A decade after Together (IRE) successfully pulled off the aforementioned turnaround, regally-bred Empress Josephine (IRE) seeks to emulate that effort for the same connections as she was entered in Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in the wake of her third-place finish in last weekend’s First Lady Stakes. 

As Together was before her, Empress Josephine is owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith and boasts a pedigree soaked in top-level success. By the late, great Galileo and out of the multiple Group 1 winner Lillie Langtry (IRE), Empress Josephine annexed the Tattersalls Irish One Thousand Guineas (G1) at the Curragh in May before suffering three straight losses – all at the Group 1 level – prior to her shipping stateside for the one-mile First Lady. 

Last Saturday, Empress Josephine rallied from off the pace to get up for third, beaten just a length by race winner Blowout (GB).

“She was very encouraging,” said Kieran Murphy, O’Brien’s assistant. “The plan is to run her back Saturday and I think the extra furlong should benefit her.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez retains the mount aboard Empress Josephine and will break from post position four.

Klaravich Stables’ two-time graded stakes winner Technical Analysis (IRE) and Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Robert LaPenta’s Shantisara (IRE) will aim to give their trainer Chad Brown his fourth win in the QEII. 

A winner of four of six career starts, Technical Analysis enters Saturday’s race off victories in the Lake Placid (G2) and Lake George (G3) Stakes at Saratoga. Technical Analysis will leave from post two and be ridden by Jose Ortiz.

“This filly is starting to remind me of a nice horse we used to train named Dayatthespa” Brown said of Technical Analysis after the Lake Placid. “She ended up being a champion horse for us down the road and as she got older, she showed a lot of speed and went to the lead. I can see a lot of similarities with this horse, so I’m not going to take anything away from her.

“She’s a high-energy horse and my team has just done a fabulous job with her. We’ve found a few things to sweeten her up and get along with her and it’s really working.”

Shantisara has won two of three starts since coming to North America, recording victories in the Pucker Up (G3) at Arlington and the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park. Flavien Prat has the mount on Shantisara, who will exit post three.

In three months, G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s homebred Flippant has gone from a maiden winner to a two-time stakes winner and the daughter of Tapit will now take aim at her first graded stakes win in the QEII. Out of the two-time Grade 2-winning mare Frivolous, Flippant notched her first victory July 4 at Ellis Park and followed that with a victory Aug. 7 in the Kentucky Downs TVG Preview Dueling Grounds Oaks at Ellis. 

In her most recent start, Flippant won the Woodford Reserve Virginia Oaks Stakes at Colonial Downs on Aug. 31.

“She is doing very well,” trainer Vicki Oliver said. “This is a race I have always wanted to win, and I hope she is the one. Being a Tapit, we thought dirt for her. It was almost by default that she wound up on the grass here in April, and she ran so good on it (a runner-up finish) that we left her there.”