By Jarrod Horak
Saratoga’s second week of the 2023 summer meet is in the books and seven stakes races were run from July 19-23. We witnessed big performances from Scotland in the Curlin and Wet Paint in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, but the star of the week award goes to Nest after her powerful return victory in the Grade 2 Shuvee.
New York Stallion Statue of Liberty – July 19 – One mile inner turf
The temporary rail was set at 9 feet and the pace was solid. This race came down to two closers and Orange Freeze ($10.60) rallied wide from the outside post and kicked clear to win by a length and a half under Joel Rosario. Bernt Again was last for the opening six panels and rallied nicely to finish a clear second. Mz Big Bucks stalked, led, and was best of the rest in third. Beaten favorite Red Moon finished an even fourth and she was well clear of the rest. Little Linzee, Bea Bea Kaz, Clover Street, Camp Akeela, and fading pacesetter Queens Over Threes completed the order of finish. The final time on a turf course labeled good was 1:37.75. William Morey saddled the winner and he claimed this sophomore filly out of a $40k maiden claiming turf route win on June 23.
New York Stallion Cab Calloway – July 20 – One mile inner turf
Another stakes race and another upset in what has become a normal occurrence at Saratoga this summer. This race scratched down to six competitors and the pace was very controlled. Itsallcomintogetha ($20) spurted clear from the outset under Jose Gomez. He carved out fractions of 24.18, 49.25, and 1:13.59. He was about a length and a half clear for much of the running, and he padded his lead to 3 1/2 lengths in the stretch. Strong favorite Ramblin’ Wreck stalked the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr. and he came after the longtime leader with determination in the stretch but ultimately fell a neck short. The runner-up was 4 1/2 lengths clear of show finisher Vacation Dance, and Willintoriskitall was another head back in fourth. Twenty Six Black and Mama Banned Me trailed throughout. The final time on a course labeled firm was 1:36.62 (rail at 9 feet).
Curlin Stakes – July 21 – 1 1/8 miles dirt
This restricted stakes race had five runners and is a local prep for the Travers. Chad Brown’s Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens was the strong favorite in this spot but chalk players have struggled in stakes races at the Spa and that trend continued in this spot. Scotland set the pace and Il Miracolo was in chase mode. Blazing Sevens was bumped and jostled around early and Lost Ark and Perform were at the back. The fractions were solid enough. They went an opening quarter in 23.69, a half in 47.56, and six panels in 1:11.12. Scotland maintained a slight advantage over Il Miracolo and those two kept Blazing Sevens at bay. They actually spurted away from the favorite around the far turn. Scotland ($6.90) put away Il Miracolo in the lane and was eased up late in a comfortable 3 1/4 length tally. Il Miracolo was 3 lengths clear of disappointing show finisher Blazing Sevens. Los Ark was well well behind in fourth and never got seriously involved. Perform was the distant trailer. Scotland completed his journey in 1:49.12 for Junior Alvarado and Bill Mott. The gelded son of Good Magic ran his career record to 3-for-4 with a close runner-up finish. This was his first start around two turns and he is clearly on the upswing. He deserves a chance in the Travers.
Lake George (G3) – July 21 – One mile inner turf
Two horses scratched and that left an 8-horse field. Chad Brown had half of the entrants and he figured to win, but which of his runners would step forward? Based on the way these stakes races have been playing at the Spa this summer, you just knew his least fancied runner would overperform. Secret Money set slow fractions (24.97, 49.84, 1:14.33) and she stayed on nicely, but Surge Capacity ($13) worked out a cozy tactical trip from the inside post under Joel Rosario and held off a late bid from her stablemate Tax Implications (GB) to score by a bit less than a length. Secret Money missed the place by a neck and was 2 1/2 lengths clear of late runner Revalita (FR). Beaten favorite Liguria was a flat 5th and was followed by Tryinmyheartout, Princess Bettina, and Lil Miss Moonlight. The final time on a course labeled yielding was 1:38 flat (rail at 9 feet). Chad Brown on the turf is money in the bank in these stakes races, but it can be tough to figure out which of his runners are the right one when he enters so many.
Caress (G3) – July 22 – 5.5 furlongs turf
Roses for Debra was the first post time favorite to get the job in a stakes race this week, but she had to catch front runner Bubble Rock. The latter was a length clear early but the fractional time displayed on the screen was wrong. They had the opening quarter in 20 and change. No way! They never updated the chart so the real first fraction is still unknown as of this writing. The half was clocked in 45.29 and that seemed about right, but you could tell that Bubble Rock was in deep water. Roses for Debra ($5.50 chased from second, pounced on the early leader, and cruised across the line by 2 1/2 lengths for Irad Ortiz Jr. and Christophe Clement. Wakanaka (IRE), turning back in distance for Bill Mott, rallied to finish a neck in front of Bubble Rock for the runner-up spot. Poppy Flower was another head back in fourth and Our Flash Drive trailed but was only a half-length behind the next-to-last finisher. The final time on a course labeled good was 1:02.39 (rail at 12 feet).
Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) – July 22 – 1 1/8 miles dirt
Hoosier Philly scratched and she was expected to impact the pace. That left a 5-horse field and 14-1 outsider She’s Lookin Lucky showed the way early. She carved out fractions of 24.67, 48.81, and 1:12.59. Sacred Wish was getting the run of the race from second and she ran a winning race at 10-1 odds. However, class prevailed in the end. Wet Paint was content to sit back in last place under Flavien Prat. Sacred Wish hit the front when She’s Lookin Lucky gave up the ghost and she was 2 1/2 lengths to the good in the lane. Wet Paint ($4.90) was the only runner with a chance and she had dead aim late and got up to win by a neck. Sacred Wish was 8+ lengths in front of beaten favorite Gambling Girl. The latter, an overachieving NY-bred filly, was making her first start since the Kentucky Oaks for Todd Pletcher. She just did get the show by a half-length over a tiring She’s Lookin Lucky. Southlawn was my value top choice but lost her best chance after stumbling badly at the start. She recovered to stalk inside but weakened to last. The final time was 1:50.68. Wet Paint is definitely in the running for the 3-year-old filly title. This was her fourth stakes win of 2023 and first Grade 1 win. The Alabama (G1) is probably next and Brad Cox’s filly sure looks like a mile and a quarter horse.
Shuvee (G2) – July 23 – 1 1/8 miles dirt
This 4-horse contest was a match race between Nest and Clairiere. Pistol Liz Ablazen, the longest shot in the field, set the pace as expected and Irad Ortiz Jr. smartly allowed Nest to settle in the second spot. Skratch Kat and Clairiere raced as a team behind the two early leaders. There was no change in the running order for the opening six panels, and the fractions were slow (24.82, 49.87, 1:14.43). Nest always looked like a winner in this race. Ortiz Jr. put her in a great tactical spot and he kept looking back to see what Clairiere was up to. He knew he could take over the lead at any time and he made his move around the final turn. He took another peek back and let it out a notch. Nest ($3.70) hit the front and she had a couple of lengths on her main rival. She stayed clear in the stretch and was best by 2 1/2 lengths, and the final time was 1:50.72. Clairiere did everything she could in this race under Joel Rosario. Nest got the jump on her and she gave futile chase in a clear runner-up finish. Skratch Kat was 10 lengths behind the place finisher and Pistol Liz Ablazen was another 9+ lengths behind that runner. Nest and Clairiere figure to meet again this year and the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Female will probably come down to these two talented daughters of Curlin. Nest was making her first start since the 2022 BC Distaff and the Shuvee was a great starting point for her. Her tactical speed always makes her a dangerous win contender and she loves the dirt oval at Saratoga. Clairiere is always at the mercy of the pace and she just shows up with a quality effort every time. She can give Nest a battle in future races under a different pace scenario, but there is a realistic chance that Nest does not lose a race this year. Also, Clairiere is best a 1 1/16 miles and is just 1-for-7 at a mile and an eighth. Nest loves nine panels and can run all day.
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