by Keith McCalmont
She was ignored on the tote board at odds of 12-1, but Call Me Queen Be, who had the undivided attention of trainer Ross Croghan and her dedicated groom Justin MacEachern, prevailed Saturday (Oct. 29) at the Meadowlands in a stirring stretch duel over O’Brien Award winner L A Delight in the $500,000 three-year-old filly pace.
The feisty filly had come up short on a few occasions this year against division darlings Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach, but Call Me Queen Be fired a warning shot at her rivals on Sept. 10 after besting both in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final when similarly overlooked at odds of 14-1.
The pacer took her talents to the Delaware Country Fairgrounds in Ohio and won the opening heat of the Jugette but had to play second fiddle to L A Delight in the Jugette final. After a trio of trips which saw the filly fail to have her photo snapped, Croghan went to work on readying Call Me Queen Be for the division’s biggest night.
“She’s run some great miles this year, but the horse has had some liver enzyme problems over the last month,” explained Croghan. “We tried to do some oxygen therapy on her this week to try and give Mother Nature a little push and her liver enzyme count did drop nearly 30 points. She stepped out tonight and performed.”
The victory provided driver Scott Zeron, who completed a Trotting Triple Crown earlier this month with Marion Marauder, with a first Breeders Crown score. Zeron regularly puts the high-flying daughter of Somebeachsomewhere—Preppy Party Girl on the point, but he worked a first-over trip from post nine to secure the Breeders Crown score.
“I didn’t want first-over but watching the races tonight, it’s late in the season, and it’s been a closer’s night tonight,” said Croghan. “I said to the driver before he went out that I know she can circle anything off the wings but let’s go another way and just ‘woah off’ and see what happens. The first over I didn’t like, but the end result I did.”
Favored Pure Country (Brett Miller) emerged on top from a :27.2 first-quarter duel before L A Delight (John Campbell) took over down the back straight as Zeron asked Call Me Queen Be to engage on a first-over trip.
“I’m happy she was on her game tonight,” Zeron said. “That’s not her style (going first-over), but things really worked out to her advantage, getting a soft third quarter and then just turn it into a sprint to leave (out) some of those horses that were following behind.”
Call Me Queen Be had a narrow lead on the way home and stayed off a stubborn L A Delight through a :26 closing quarter to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Darlinonthebeach held third while Pure Country, a Dan Patch Award winner and defending Breeders Crown champion, settled for fourth as the 4-5 mutuel favorite.
“She raced good. Honestly, I should have either forced the issue more,” said Miller of Pure Country. “I should have maybe taken John (L A Delight) a quicker second quarter, because when he made the front he got a really big breather and the race turned into a sprint. When it turned into a sprint, that actually hurt us pretty bad. We just got out-sprinted.”
Croghan credits MacEachern, the filly’s constant companion, with bringing Call Me Queen Be to the front side with her ‘A’ game.
“She was a very difficult, high-strung filly from the day we got her and I’ve not had a lot to do with getting her mannered,” said Croghan. “Justin has had her for two years and broken her to the saddle. He has spent hours and hours with this filly giving her confidence and getting her mannered. Between Justin, and the brilliant job that Scotty had done with her this year, to me, is 90 per cent of her success.
“Justin has just put his heart and soul into this horse. Between Justin and the brilliant job Scotty has done keeping the filly quiet has been the key to her success.”
The affable conditioner also tipped his cap to Call Me Queen Be who was game to the wire while turning the division on its head.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to get beyond L A Delight, but that :26 flat was huge,” said Croghan. “What a way to come home.”
Croghan trains Call Me Queen Be ($27.80), now a 10-time winner, for the Let It Ride Stables and Mr. Dana Parham.