By Jarrod Horak
The second weekend at Saratoga features a trio of graded stakes races including the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Todd Pletcher has live contenders in two of the graded races including Nest in the Grade 2 Shuvee on Sunday, July 23.
Grade 3 Caress Stakes – Race 6 – July 22
This turf sprint has six runners overall and one is entered for main track only. Roses for Debra is the 9-5 morning line favorite and she is 5-for-7 overall. She won both turf sprint attempts this year and figures to stalk the pace under her new rider Irad Ortiz Jr.
Bubble Rock is the second choice at 2-1 and she might be the target under Flavien Prat. Brad Cox’s filly did all of the pace dirty work and missed by a nose in the Intercontinental (G3) at six panels on June 9. This slightly shorter distance should help her cause and I will probably play her on top.
Poppy Flower ran down Bubble Rock last time. She took the Galway at the Spa last summer and fired exacta shots in all five starts at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Bill Mott is her trainer and he also saddles Wakanaka. The latter is a classy turf route specialist turning back in distance. She can sprint on turf. She is 2-for-3 with a runner-up finish at this trip.
Our Flash Drive is a sharp Woodbine shipper for Mark Casse. The tactical mare won her last three graded sprints in Canada and she captured the De La Rose under Saturday’s rider Dylan Davis at Saratoga last summer.
Bank On Anna is the main track only entrant. The New York-bred filly won four races in 2022 including the local Union Avenue. She tailed off after that and probably needs an easier spot.
Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks – Race 9 – July 22
Six sophomore fillies will travel 1 1/8 miles on the main track in this competitive heat.
Wet Paint is the 2-1 favorite and she is hoping for some pace assistance. She was strong at Oaklawn Park earlier this year with wins in the Martha Washington, Honeybee (G3), and Fantasy (G3). She finished fourth as the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and got no pace help in a clear runner-up finish in the Monomoy Girl at Ellis Park last time. She reunites with her winning rider Prat and she could easily rumble past this group.
Gambling Girl is the co-second choice at 5-2 on the line and she is a contender from off the pace. Todd Pletcher’s New York-bred filly graduated by the length of the stretch in a local extended sprint last summer. She was third in the Demoiselle (G2), and second in the Busanda, Gazelle (G3), and Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Hoosier Philly is also 5-2 and she is back in form for Tom Amoss. She has turned into a front runner. She set the pace and was second best in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), and stole the Monomoy Girl on June 17. She is a logical contender if she shakes loose early.
Southlawn might be the value play at 9-2. She was razor sharp at Fair Grounds over the winter. She easily handled Pretty Mischievous in the Grade 2 FG Oaks and failed to fire when last seen in the Kentucky Oaks. She is training forwardly for this engagement and figures to save ground stalking the pace.
Sacred Wish is still eligible for an entry level spot. She landed the place in the GP Oaks (G2) earlier in the season.
She’s Lookin Lucky rounds out the field and she might impact the pace. She exits a romping win in the slop at Ellis Park. Her lone stakes try was in the Fantasy at Oaklawn and she ran last in a race won by Wet Paint.
Grade 2 Shuvee – Race 4 – July 23
Only four horses will break from the gate in this mile and an eighth test for fillies and mares. This one should come down to the two favorites.
Pistol Liz Ablazen might try to steal this but she does not look classy enough to win. Nest figures to track from second and should make the first run. She cruised in both Grade 1 stakes starts at Saratoga last summer and this is her first start since finishing fourth as the favorite in the BC Distaff.
If Nest comes up short, look for Clairiere to rally for the win. Steve Asmussen’s mare won this race last year and exits back-to-back Grade 1 wins in the Apple Blossom and Ogden Phipps.
Skratch Kat rounds out the field and she is probably in too deep. Nest easily handled the closer in the Alabama (G1) last summer.