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Thursday started out as a gray day but the forecast claimed that outside of a brief shower or two, no significant rain was supposed to fall. The forecast was wrong. Starting around the 6th race, rain came in a pretty steady fashion, a downpour after the Ballston Spa (Gr II) soaking those who were heading for the exits at the time (that would be me). Not that we aren’t used to it by now but even the days where the skies are gray but without rain forecast wind up wet. With more showers and steady rain expected through around 8 am, the grass will be back to being soggy after a couple days of firm courses, though it’s very doubtful any of the Friday turf races will survive.
🚨 Fridays Turf Spa report - Races 1/4/10 are OFF the grass. Races 3 & 8 are ON the soggy turf. Races 1 & 4 will be run at the one mile distance from the Wilson chute
🥇 Race one was a NY bred maiden $30,000 claimer for fillies going a mile on the main track and I have two thoughts after watching. One is Mark Hennig probably wishes this meet wouldn’t end as he has done very well as Alterina was his 8th winner from 33 starts tying him for 9th with Steve Asmussen, one more than Brad Cox. Second is Katie Davis has been a bit of a revelation this meet as she rides so hard every time that she almost wills fillies like Alterina to keep running as she did today.
⏱️ A new track record was set in race three, a high level allowance race going about 1 1/8 on the inner turf but I have to tell you don’t be too impressed as it was going to be a track record no matter how slow or fast it went as for the first time in history (at least as far as anyone can tell) races were run at “about distances” on the turf course. Grand Sonata, a Medaglia d’Oro colt trained by Todd Pletcher for breeder-owner Whisper Hill Farm, was the winner as he rebounded from a dismal effort off the layoff earlier in the meet to sit a great trip under Gafflione and gamely held off Easter (FR) late. That one rallied from the back of the pack and had dead aim on the winner mid-stretch but could not go by. Kuramata (Ire) who was sent off as the 4-5 chalk led coming into the stretch but had no excuse other than out-finished in the lane.
🏆 Coming into the Ballston Spa (Gr II) we all assumed that Sister Bridget (Ire) with blinkers added was going to show speed for at least the early part of the race before retreating as she looked to be just overmatched. Jose Ortiz didn’t get the message as he seeemd to be wanting to clear the field leaving the gate like he did last time out in the De La Rose Stakes on Technical Analysis (Ire). The question mark was would Evvie Jets with new rider Manny Franco also be inclined to use her early speed as she had taken back and chased to no avail in the De La Rose and after stakes success prior to that on the lead. Well what did happen is that Franco took back even further on Evvie Jets and Technical Analysis (Ire) got locked in a speed duel with the hopeless Sister Bridget(Ire) before Ortiz wrangled her back heading down the backside. Going into the far turn, Ortiz moved to seize command on the race and held a narrow lead into the stretch. As the field fanned out turning into the lane, challengers were coming from everywhere as Evvie Jets and euro invader Jumbly (GB) were charging up the rail, Gam’s Mission was hanging in there in the three path, Fluffy Socks was commencing her run outside of her, Surprisingly was hung out 5 deep and Consumer Spending and Joel Rosario were weaving their way through from last. The early duel finally tools its toll as Technical Analysis (Ire) was overtaken late with Evvie Jets surging up the inside to stick her head in front, winning a blanket finish over Fluffy Socks and Jumbly (GB) with Consumer Spending forced to check off of heels late, much to the consternation of a great deal of Horse racing Twitter. It was another perfect example of how trips make or break you in turf races and props to ‘the eyechart guy’, Mertkan Kantarmaci for a great claim and excellent job of training the six year old mare by Twirling Candy and to Manny Franco for the flawless ride.
🆓 DRF’s Race of the Day with Free Formulator PP’s The Personal Ensign
🐶 Mut has a lot on the docket today especially if you are a Boston person. Check it out.
Personal Ensign (Gr I) $500,000 4&up F/M 1 1/8
Idiomatic - Cox trainee has been successful performer against the grade II & III level girls but steps into the big time here against the top fillies and mares in the country. Expect her to set the pace and the only real unknown from that standpoint is Malloy and what she does as mainly a sprinter stretching out. If she is allowed to set her own pace without pressure, she may throw a scare into the rest of this group turning for home.
Malloy - seems like a bizarre spot to jump into from off-the-turf win in Hawthorne allowance. Respect Catman’s talent as a trainer but this is a rough spot for the five year old Outwork mare.
Secret Oath - back to the salt mines off of a brief freshening (in DWL terms) she has lost a bit of luster after no-show performance in the Phipps on Belmont day though around one turn. Has worked well though she typically has been a strong in training sessions, substitute rider Castellano has to devise away to beat Nest as Saratoga, a task that she didn’t do so well at last summer…and oh by the way Clairiere is here too. Lukas has not done quite as well as he did at the Spa last year though he has had quite a few second place finishes that ran well. On her best she is very dangerous and perhaps will be overlooked on the tote board, DWL is just a tough trainer to figure when his horses will or won’t rebound off of poor races and has been for 40 years.
Sixtythreecaliber - happy that she is in here as 3-4 horse stakes are not ideal though not sure I believe that she can find a way to get in the winners circle without some serious chaos like Gary Stevens wandering out onto the track and causing the rest of the field to pull up to avoid running him over.
Nest - her oft delayed comeback race in the Shuvee (Gr II) went as expected as she sat close behind a glacial pace set by an overmatched filly before Irad moved to the lead turning for home, the head start over Clairiere too much for that rival to overcome. Once again she holds the tactical advantage over Clairiere who Achilles heel is that she simply doesn’t have much early speed and Nest has proven to simply be better than Secret Oath in the past, especially over this Spa surface. Perhaps a wet track might be an X factor though she has handled those ok in the past but she will be an underlay here though for understandably so.
Clairiere - was at the mercy of a very slow pace and a very talented foe in the Shuvee (Gr II). Perhaps with a truer run race, jockey Rosario won’t be forced to use her early as just to not fall too far behind and he can time her late run a little better as Nest and Secret Oath will have to pay a little close attention to the front running Idiomatic. Obviously respect her ability and grittiness as she always shows up, the only time she didn’t fire in the last few years was when she about knocked herself out in the starting gate last year in this race, probably running with some sort of equine concussion.
🗳️ The GIC Digest readers have spoken and they like Arcangelo in tomorrow’s Travers by a surprisingly large margin
📽️ When anyone talks about the greatest fillies in racing, the namesake of today’s race better be high on the list. Her undefeated career (despite it being interrupted to have a dozen screws placed in a fractured hind leg as a two year old) culminated in one of the great races of the 20th century in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff but she had some Saratoga spotlight moments including defeating two really good horses Gulch and Kings Swan in the 1988 Whitney as seen below ⬇️