Shantisara with Flavian Prat up wins the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 16, 2021. Keeneland/Coady Photography.

Shantisara Leaves No Doubt in Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup

By Alicia Hughes

Shantisara (IRE) only came to the barn of trainer Chad Brown this past spring but in the relatively short time the daughter of Coulsty (IRE) has been part of the Eclipse Award-winning program, she has already picked up some of the better habits that come with being part of one of the leading shedrows in the sport. 

In just her second start under Brown’s care, Shantisara was able to add her name to his miles-long list of graded stakes winners. And in her first try against top-level company, the 3-year-old bay filly emulated many of her predecessors by stamping herself as the latest problem the turf distaff ranks have to deal with for the foreseeable future. 

There were only two graded stakes in North America on Oct. 16, both nine-furlong outings on the turf for sophomore fillies. Not surprisingly, one man celebrated victory in both as Shantisara ran past stablemate Technical Analysis (IRE) in the Keeneland stretch to prevail in the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) just over an hour after fellow Brown trainee Fluffy Socks captured the Sands Point Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park.

Winning graded stakes in bunches has been a hallmark of four-time Eclipse Award-winner Brown and his team, but his latest run of success is notable even for his operation. Since Oct. 2, Brown-trained runners have won eight graded stakes, including four Grade 1 contests, potentially setting the stage for what could be a series of peak performances at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar on Nov. 5-6. 

“We really work towards these big Fall stakes. We try to develop these horses throughout the year to peak in the Fall,” Brown said. “It doesn’t always work, we try our best. But the really talented horses who can avoid injuries and such can really get there if given the opportunity. And that’s what our team really tries to focus on. 

“We put together a really nice Fall after a nice second half to Saratoga and we have some horses that are reaching new heights now, winning Grade 1s and other graded stakes. I’m appreciative to my team and the horses to getting to this point. It’s a long grind all year, you’re going from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, there are a lot of ups and downs. With this group of horses that have had this much success this past month, we’re just overjoyed with it.”

Since coming over from France where she made her first five starts, Shantisara has been a major contributor her barn’s accolades.

After finishing second in the Boiling Springs in June at Monmouth Park in her stateside debut, she scored a three-length victory in in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes in August at Arlington Park and followed that up with a triumph in the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational on Sept. 18 at Belmont Park.

Flavien Prat had guided Shantisara to each of those victories and he was back in the irons on Saturday as he and his mount tracked along in third while Technical Analysis led the field of nine through fractions of :23.91, :48.63 and 1:12.78 while under mild pressure from favored Empress Josephine (IRE).

“She’s really tactical, she always puts me in a good spot,” Prat said. She was traveling really well today. The soft ground was a question mark but it felt like she was doing good on it. When it was time to go, she really showed a good turn of foot.”

As the field turned for home, Shantisara took aim at the pacesetter and opened up with authority to cross the wire five lengths in front – the largest in the history of the race, eclipsing the 4 1/2-length victory by Hot Cha Cha in 2009.

“It looked like both my horses were lined up for a stretch duel and I felt very, very good around the turn,” Brown said. “I thought Technical Analysis had plenty and was going to last and Shantisara was coming around the tiring (Empress Josephine). I felt really good turning for home that one of the two were going to win and then Shantisara just kicked in really strong in the stretch.”

Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Robert LaPenta, Shantisara returned $7, $3.80 and $3 en route to stopping the teletimer in 1:48.86 over a yielding course. Technical Analysis held for second finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of Burning Ambition. Empress Josephine, who was wheeling back after running third in the First Lady Stakes (G1) on Oct. 9, faded to ninth.

Lady Speightspeare was scratched after getting fractious was loading in the gate.

Saturday’s win gave Brown his third win in the QEII in the last four years and fourth victory overall in the race. While he is unsure what might be next for Shantisara after she earned her fifth win from nine career starts, he is confident there is more upside to unearth.

“She’s just really taken to the program and really developed physically,” Brown said. “She’s gotten stronger in her works. I’m just so proud of her, proud of my team and how far they’ve brought her along. She really gave a lot of indications in the mornings recently that she was sitting on a career effort, and she sure ran to it.”