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The Queen’s Gambit

By Noah Joseph

Horse racing is a lot like a game of chess. It takes skill and luck, along with perfect timing. One wrong move, and it’s checkmate. But like in chess, you must always expect the unexpected move, no matter where it may come from. And in 2008, such a moment happened in Canterbury’s most prestigious race. That race was the Lady Canterbury, and that unexpected move was made by a horse named Quiet Queen.

Quiet Queen was bred in Kentucky by her owners Joan Pieper and Dr. Sam Pieper Jr. and trained by David Kassen. Her sire was 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet, and her dam was Polkadot Princess, a mare who the Piepers owned during her racing career. Quiet Queen was a bit of a late bloomer, as she was unraced as a two-year-old and didn’t make her debut until August of 2006 as a three-year-old at Arlington Park. It took longer for her to actually break her maiden, as she didn’t win until almost a year later. But 2008 saw Quiet Queen take a major step forward as she won four of her first six starts while racing in Florida and Illinois. That July, she made her stakes debut in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park, but she was fractious at the starting gate and had a rough trip, finishing tenth of 11. Most horses and their connections would regroup and go for an easier race next time out, but Quiet Queen’s team was playing chess, not checkers. They had something else in mind for her.

On August 2, 2008, Canterbury Park was set to run the Lady Canterbury Stakes. With a purse of $100,000 and a rich history, it was considered to be the biggest race of the season. Eleven fillies and mares from across the country competed in the one mile turf race. The field included Minnesota H. B. P. A. Mile winner Lemonlime, Grade 2 placed Tears I Cry, stakes winner Just For Keeps, and flashy gray Angel Smoke, who was the best of the local entrants. Quiet Queen on the other hand, came into the race with very little backing and attention from the Canterbury crowd that afternoon, who sent her off at odds of 30-1. Breaking from post 13, Quiet Queen broke cleanly and was sent close to the lead, tracking the frontrunning Just For Keeps. She continued to track and was three-wide going around the far turn. But then she made her move for the lead, and ran right up next to Just For Keeps down the stretch. It was a dogfight down the lane, but Quiet Queen soon edged away to the lead. Lemonlime and Angel Smoke however were charging late, but it was too late as Quiet Queen said checkmate and crossed the finish line first. Tracy Hebert was aboard for the upset victory. Her winning payoff of $63.60 to win became the second highest win payout in Lady Canterbury history. Quiet Queen was certainly the queen on that day. But would she last on her throne?

After her Lady Canterbury score, Quiet Queen would fail to win another race in her career. She competed in Florida, Illinois, and Kentucky, but it was clear to see that the magic had worn off. She did make two more trips to Canterbury in 2009, finishing 3rd in the Minnesota H. B. P. A. Mile and 5th while trying to defend her crown in the Lady Canterbury. She made her final start that August in Chicago. Often overlooked when it comes to longshot stakes winners in Canterbury history, Quiet Queen on that one day in 2008 was the grandmaster.