So proud of her: Can the Queen’s winding road to stakes winner

In 2010, Maryland breeder Carol Ann Kaye wanted to buy a broodmare. She found one she liked in the catalog for the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Attracted by the filly in the Adena Springs consignment and unable to get to Kentucky, she asked a friend to go look at her, and on his recommendation, she purchased Queenterra (Empire Maker) in foal to Tiago sight unseen for $16,000.  Two years earlier, Queenterra had been a $235,000 RNA. She never made it to the races. 

Kaye offered the Tiago colt at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling sale. A bidding war broke out, with Joseph Imbesi getting the colt for $120,000. Two subsequent foals, both by Into Mischief, sold as yearlings for $4,000 and $48,000. 

By 2015, Into Mischief’s stud fee had risen beyond Kaye’s budget, so after looking into Can the Man, a graded-stakes winning son of Into Mischief, she bred Queenterra to him, resulting in a 2016 filly she named Can the Queen.

Seven years and a circuitous road later – and exactly 32 minutes before a horse from the other end of the racing spectrum, the $1.5 million purchase First Captain, took the Pimlico Special — the Maryland-bred Can the Queen won The Very One Stakes, on Maryland racing’s second biggest day of the year. 

Trained by Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon and owned by his long-time partner Joanne Shankle, Can the Queen won the five-furlong turf stakes by 1 1/4 lengths, leading at every call under jockey Victor Carrasco.

Not bad for a horse that was a longshot to even make it to the races.    

The filly was born at a tumultuous time in Kaye’s life, and she gave her to her son and daughter-in-law. Sanchez-Salomon said that they offered the filly to his cousin. That cousin passed on the information to Sanchez-Salomon, and after viewing videos of the horse, Sanchez-Salomon offered $4,000 for her. The offer accepted, he went out to the farm to see her before finalizing the deal.

“I stood next to her, I gave her a pat, and she just looked at me,” he said. “I said, ‘She’s mine.’”  

Knowing that she wasn’t fully racetrack broken, he got on her back anyway. When she didn’t resist, he knew he’d take her home. 

He said it was suggested to him that he leave the filly on the farm for a time because she could “be mean.”

“She won’t be mean to me,” he declared.

Within a few months of coming to Sanchez-Salomon and Shankle’s barn, late in her three-year-old year, Can the Queen was ready to run. She won first-out at Laurel in September 2019, a 5 1/2-furlong race over firm turf, then ran dismally in two starts on dirt. She returned to the turf for her 2020 campaign, and her best races have come on the grass, with one notable exception.

“I was going to run her at Pimlico on the grass in September two years ago,” said the trainer. “But she was training really good in the slop at Laurel. So I said, ‘Let me race her and see how she does.’

“Man, she broke out of the gate and never looked back.”

She won by seven lengths over a sloppy track, but wants nothing to do with fast dirt.

“Turf or slop for her,” said Shankle. 

With the The Very One win, Can the Queen has earned just under $244,000, representing a pretty damn good return on Sanchez-Salomon’s initial investment, especially after beginning her career in the claiming ranks. Sanchez-Salomon admitted that he didn’t have especially high hopes for the filly when he bought her; now, he says he can’t imagine running her for a tag again…unless it’s for a really big tag, presumably thinking that no one would take her.

“The New York Racing Association has called me about running in their claimers for $62,500 or $80,000,” he said. “And now they called me to nominate her to run in a Grade 3 there.”

He is unlikely to do that; Can the Queen has experienced pulmonary hemorrhaging, and in New York, horses can’t run on Lasix in graded stakes.

“We gave her three months off after she bled, and she came back good,” he said. “I want to keep her like that. I don’t want her to bleed. I don’t want her to suffer.” 

Sanchez-Salomon and Shankle pick their spots judiciously with the six-year-old mare, and they have no immediate plans for a next start, still reveling in her latest stakes win.

“It was fantastic,” said Shankle. “We’re so proud of her. She tries every time she runs.” 

Note: This story has been modified from an earlier version to remove the name of a person who wished not to be included.

  • Can the Queen won The Very One. Photo by The Racing Biz.
  • Can the Queen won The Very One. Photo Allison Janezic.
  • Can the Queen won The Very One. Photo Allison Janezic.
  • Can the Queen won the Sensible Lady Turf Dash. Photo Jerry Dzierwinski.