Breeders’ Cup: Qushchi takes her shot

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It’s a little tough to pass on taking a shot at the Breeders’ Cup when your two winners were 46-1 and 27-1.

That’s the position trainer Graham Motion finds himself as he plans a start in the Filly and Mare Turf for Qushchi. Andrew Stone’s English-bred mare earned the shot off a fourth behind likely race favorite Laughing in Belmont Park’s Grade 1 Flower Bowl Sept. 28. Sitting behind a slow pace set by the winner, Qushchi made some progress late but settled for a minor piece. Motion hopes for a fast pace scenario in Saturday’s $2 million race, but also thinks his mare can handle another step forward in her seventh start of 2013.

“She’s just kept improving, every time she’s run or whatever we’ve done with her,” he said. “Physically, not just the way she runs, she’s a different horse, a better horse than she was when she got here. She’s improved so much since she first came here a year ago. Clearly, it’s suited her well to come over here and I’m very pleased with her.”

And it doesn’t hurt at Motion-trained Breeders’ Cup winners Better Talk Now (2004 Turf) and Shared Account (2010 Filly and Mare Turf) paid a combined $151.80 to win.

Qushchi and another filly owned by Stone, Strathnaver, joined Motion’s squad late last fall and spent the winter in Florida.

Qushchi placed in back-to-back allowance starts, then finished third in the Grade 3 Bewitch (which Strathnaver won) at Keeneland. Beaten a head by Treasured Up in the Keertana at Churchill Downs in May, Qushchi missed a start in July when Delaware Park’s Robert Dick Memorial was rained off the turf. Motion audibled and sent her to Saratoga, where she won the 1 1/2-mile Waya Stakes in early August. She rallied wide off the final turn to defeat Anjaz and Mystical Star that day. In the 1 1/4-mile Flower Bowl, Mystical Star wound up third – beaten less than a length – while Qushchi’s late charge flattened out after a half-mile fraction of :51.46 and a mile in 1:39.48.

The daughter of Encosta de Lago would probably prefer a longer race than Saturday’s 1 1/4 miles, but should get some more pace in front of her.

“With not a great trip, with not a great pace scenario, she ran pretty well,” Motion said of the Flower Bowl. “As long as she runs back to that race she’ll be competitive and frankly every time I’ve run her this year she’s handled every part of it. Every time I’ve stepped it up with her she’s handled it.”

Qushchi won three times in England while with trainer William Jarvis but weathered a winless, 11-start campaign in 2012. She managed a second in her only finish better than fourth, but has consistently fired quality efforts this year with two seconds, two thirds, a fourth and the win in six tries.

Laughing won the Flower Bowl over stablemate Tannery, who came back to win the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine this past weekend to further flatter the Flower Bowl field. Saturday morning at Fair Hill, Qushchi worked 5 furlongs on the Tapeta in 1:01 2/5. She ships Tuesday afternoon on a FedEx flight to California. Motion will name jockey Edgar Prado on the 5-year-old, and called all systems go.

“You try not to change anything, and try not to let the ship interfere with what you’re doing,” Motion said of the travel plans. “The good thing about that flight is it leaves late in the day so she can train here Tuesday like normal.”

Watch the Flower Bowl.

Watch the Waya.