Saratoga stakes recaps: Mourning Maple Leaf Mel

Maple Leaf Mel (NYRA Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

We cannot begin this recap article without discussing the tragic events surrounding the Test Stakes, and that race is almost impossible to talk about given what happened just before the wire. The ending was almost too tragic to believe. Maple Leaf Mel, an extremely talented and fleet New York-bred filly, was in front early and clearly had the Grade 1 race won under Joel Rosario. She was geared down late and steps before the finish line, the unthinkable happened. She suffered a catastrophic injury to right front leg and fell. She could not be saved and was euthanized on the track. I watched a moving presentation on the Saratoga online broadcast earlier in the week about Maple Leaf Mel and her young trainer Melanie Giddings. She just seemed to have such a bond with her filly and I cannot imagine what she is going through. Bill Parcells was the owner and was joined by his family and friends at Saratoga on Saturday. The highs and lows of this sport can swing from one end to the other without warning. I am a pet owner and know that these animals are like family to the ones caring for them, and my heart aches for everyone associated with Maple Leaf Mel. Pretty Mischievous was the favorite and she was the official winner by a head over Clearly Unhinged. Munnys Gold, Dorth Vader, Jersey Pearl, and Tappin Josie also ran.

Brendan Walsh trains Pretty Mischievous, and the morning after this race, he went over to Maple Leaf Mel’s stall and laid the the wreath of carnations that were presented to the winner of the Test Stakes.  It is with a heavy heart that I proceed with the rest of the week 4 stakes recaps. 

De La Rose – August 2 – One mile inner turf

Local turf course specialist Technical Analysis was the favorite and she ran like the wind. She was immediately sent to the fore through fractions of 24.54, 48.48.49, and 1:11.84. You give a horse of this quality an easy opening quarter like that and it is lights out. Regal Realm chased from second and got closer at the six furlong mark, but that was only a teaser. Jose Ortiz let it out a notch aboard Technical Analysis ($3.80) and she opened up again. The seven panel clocking was 1:22.84 and she cruised across the line by 3 1/2 lengths. White Frost saved ground while rank early. Junior Alvarado eventually got her to settle and she came running for the place. Regal Realm just held off Haughty by a nose for the show. Eminent Victor, Evvie Jets, and Runaway Rumour trailed. Chad Brown’s mare completed her flat mile journey in 1:33.98. 

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Grade 3 Glens Falls – August 3 – 1 1/2 miles inner turf

War Like Goddess was the 1-2 favorite and she had a nice tactical trip but was rank and seemed very unhappy. She stalked hopeless longshot Elegant Taste and Vergara. The early fractions were 24.84, 50.01, and 1:15.29. Vergara struck the front after a mile in 1:39.53 and was a clear a length through 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.38. War Like Goddess was fighting her rider Joel Rosario for at least a half-mile, and she steadied, moved out, and came after Vergara. The favorite struck the front in the stretch and was moving well enough. It looked like she would get through this race with a win but McKulick (GB), one of two Chad Brown trainees, found her best stride in the lane and got up in the late stages to score by a neck. War Like Goddess was clearly second best and she let a good opportunity slip away. She is just not as good this year. Amazing Grace (GER) was third by a neck over Sopran Basilea (IRE). Vergara weakened to finish and Virginia Joy (GER) was behind her. Elegant Taste came to a stop and eased. McKulick stopped the clock in 2:27.05 and paid $10.20 to win under Irad Ortiz Jr. This marked the beginning of a very sad week at the Spa. Graham Motion runner Sopran Basilea (IRE) was injured after the race and had to be put down. 

Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks – August 4 – 1 3/16 miles turf 

The weather was very wet on Friday and the turf course was listed as soft for this race. Belmont Oaks winner Aspen Grove (IRE) scratched and that left a field of 10. Multiple runners clearly did not like the going, but it certainly did not affect post time favorite Elusive Princess (FR). Flavien Prat rode the French import, and she bided her time in midpack. Selenaia (IRE) carved out the fractions under Irad Ortiz Jr. (23.55, 48.57, 1:13.56), but she did not last much longer. They completed a mile in 1:38.62 and Elusive Princess ($4.70) made her move. She raced inside early, shifted out, and swung wide under a full head of steam and powered to the front. She was full of run late and won by an easy 3 1/2 lengths for trainer Jean-Pierre Dubois. American Sonja (GB) stalked the pace and outfinished Papilio (IRE) by a half-length for the runner-up spot. The top three were well clear of Caroline Street, and it was another 6 1/4 lengths back to Strikingly Spun. This was a strung out field because of the soft ground. Xigera was 6th, and Allamericanbeauty, a fading Selenaia, Solo Album, and Honor D Lady completed the order of finish. The winning time was 1:57.08. They were also supposed to run the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes on turf but the remainder of the card was cancelled after the Saratoga Oaks due to the lousy weather. The Hall of Fame has been rescheduled for Aug. 11.  

Grade 3 Troy Stakes – August 5 – 5 1/2 furlongs turf

The turf course was labeled as soft and heavy favorite Caravel was not handling it. Nobals made the lead and she went 21.92 and 45.19. She was two lengths clear in the lane and looked home free, but her stride was starting to shorten and Cogburn ($17.00) stalked the pace, came after the leader in the lane, and went right on by to score by 3/4ths of a length. Nobals safely held second over late runner Thin White Duke. Caravel was a flat fourth and Remuda, Mister Mmmmm and Ikigai completed the order of finish. The final time was 1:03.70 and Ricardo Santana Jr. guided home the winner for Steve Asmussen. 

Lure Stakes – August 5 – 1/16 miles inner turf

The inner turf course was yielding and Mid Day Image showed the way early through splits of 24.22, 48.04, and 1:12.81, but the most forwardly placed runners were not around at the end. Smokin’ T sat in fourth under John Velazquez and he was a good 10 lengths in front of the rest of the field after four furlongs. He made his move in the stretch along with closers Dakota Gold and post time favorite Portfolio Company. Those three had a nice stretch battle and Smokin’ T ($13.80) got the job done by a neck, and Dakota Gold was second by a nose over Portfolio Company. The latter had to wait for clear sailing and that may have cost him a higher placing. The top three were 2 1/4 lengths clear of late runner Speaking Scout. The order of finish was completed by Doctor Davis, Tiz the Bomb, Ocean Atlantique, and Mid Day Image. The final time was 1:43.64 and Shug McGaughey saddled the winner. 

Grade 1 Saratoga Derby – August 5 – 1 3/16 miles turf

The course was still listed as yielding and Program Trading (GB) made the running under Flavien Prat. Chad Brown’s filly was uncontested on the lead through fractions of 23.74, 49.59, 1:14.41. The mile was completed in 1:38.74 and Program Trading had a pursuer. Webslinger emerged from off the pace and she wrestled the lead away from the longtime leader. Program Trading ($9.20) fought back and would not be denied. She edged Webslinger by a head in a determined effort. Far Bridge was the post time favorite and she rallied from off the pace to finish a clear third. Battle of Normandy, Aspen Grove (IRE), The Franchise (IRE), Mondego (GB), and Lion of War (GB) also ran. The final time was 1:56.63 and Chad Brown trains the winner for Klaravich Stables.   

Grade 1 Whitney – August 5 – 1 1/8 miles dirt

The pace was very controlled in this race. Giant Game, the longest shot on the board at 20-1, made the lead through a soft opening quarter in 24.41. White Abarrio was in a perfect tracking spot in second on the outside. Last Samurai and Zandon were next, and Charge It was surprisingly not forwardly placed early. Strong favorite Cody’s Wish had trouble at the start. It appeared as though lost his hind footing and that cost him a few lengths. Giant Game continued to lead through four panels in 48.27. White Abarrio was on even terms after six panels in 1:11.81, and at this point if not much sooner, it was obvious that White Abarrio ($22.40) would win. He put away Giant Game as expected and it was only a matter of how far. The final winning margin was 6 1/4 lengths. Gem of consistency Zandon was clearly second best. He just loves picking up minor awards. Cody’s Wish was a disappointing third and his race was over at the start. After spotting the field a head start, he tried to make a wide early move to get into contention, but his early disadvantage and the moderate tempo up front sealed his fate. Charge It had a puzzling trip and ended up a head behind Cody’s Wish. He was exiting a front running win in the Suburban (G2) and should have been all over the pace in this spot. It was not as if his rider John Velazquez was passive. He tried to coax him early but he is not the most reliable performer, and the inconsistent sort just did not seem to have his mind on running. It was another length to Giant Game and Last Samurai faltered and was eased across the line. The final time was 1:48.45 and White Abarrio picked up his first win away from Gulfstream Park in this spot. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode the winner for Rick Dutrow. The was a Win & You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Dutrow wants to ship to Santa Anita as early as possible so his charge can get acclimated to the West Coast. He is expected to train up to the BC Classic. I really do not know what to make of this performance. White Abarrio looked good visually and it was a relatively fast race, but Cody’s Wish was clearly not at his best, the bad version of Charge It was on full display, and Zandon never wins. Plus, he got a perfect trip tracking an overmatched front runner. The Whitney result leaves us with more questions than answers. 

Grade 3 Adirondack – August 6 – 6 1/2 furlongs dirt

Here U Come Again was the chalk for Brad Cox, and she made the lead but was facing pace pressure from Streaming Now. The opening quarter was run in 22.01 and the half was completed in 45.33. Brightwork ($12.20) was in a good spot in third, and Irad Ortiz Jr. made his move and this race was over in a matter of strides. She struck the front in the lane and widened to score by a comfortable 5 lengths. Here U Come Again was clearly second best and Streaming Now was best of the rest in third. Magic Cross, Princess Indy, Princesa Celina, Becky’s Joker, and Copper Em also ran. Brightwork stopped the clock in 1:16.85 for trainer John Ortiz and WWS Racing. 

Are you interested in more Saratoga stakes recaps? Check out the links below:

Saratoga week 1 stakes recaps

Saratoga week 2 stakes recaps

Saratoga week 3 stakes recaps