Queen Nekia Rules in Saturday’s G3 Royal Delta
Feb 20, 2021
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL
– Ken Copenhaver’s Queen Nekia benefited from a hotly contested early pace to earn graded-stakes credentials with a rallying victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained 6-year-old mare, who finished a close third in last year’s edition of the 1 1/16-mile stakes for older fillies and mares after being claimed for $25,000 two starts earlier, also benefited from a ground-saving ride by Corey Lanerie to pull off a 29-1 upset.
Queen Nekia rated well off a strong pace contested by 3-2 favorite Mrs. Danvers and the Joseph-trained Gibberish, who set fractions of 23.31 and 46.48 seconds for the first half mile. Gibberish continued to turn back Mrs. Danvers’s outside challenge into to the homestretch turn, but Eres Tu, the 2-1 second betting choice made a sweeping move around them entering the stretch and appeared on her way to her fourth straight win. The new leader seems to stall upon getting a clear lead at the top of the stretch and suddenly came under attack from Queen Nekia, who kicked strongly along the rail and drew away by 1 ¾ lengths.
“It set up good. I saw a little pace on paper, and she broke really good. I was trying to get over to the rail, and then finally I just kind of let all the speed go and got back a little bit, probably a little bit further than I wanted to,” said Lanerie following his third victory of the day. “When I called on her, I had a lot of horse.”
Eres Tu finished second under Irad Ortiz Jr., 4 ¾ lengths ahead of Bajan Girl. Gibberish finished fourth and Mrs. Danvers checked in fifth.
Queen Nekia, who ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43,62, had most recently finished fourth behind stablemate Gibberish in the $100,000 Treasure Coast at Delta Downs Nov. 27.
“[For] both horses, since they ran together at Delta Downs, this has been the intended target – give them a freshening and train them together. Gibberish, I don’t think she was at her best, plus I think the pace didn’t help her,” Joseph said. “Queen Nekia finished third last year. She’s a deserving winner. She’s a filly that deserved a Grade 3. She’s a filly we claimed for $25,000, and this makes her so much more valuable.