Sunday’s Race 9 at Saratoga is named for a celebrated runner who was just a powerhouse in the late 1960s. This race is structured for older females who are looking to make their mark in a “Graded” contest. Past winners in this race form a who’s who of top routers. How about Todd Pletcher’s Stopchargingmaria or Curalina? Chad Brown’s Paid Up Subscriber and Wayne Catalano’s Farrell come up … And no one could forget Bill Mott’s Golden Award, or last year’s power runner, Letruska … could they? Fausto Gutierrez had that one cranked up, and she did not disappoint. Now, she is one of the leading horses in the country … an impressive accomplishment. This race was clearly a springboard.
Now, let’s find out about this field…
#1 Horologist (Jky: J. Alvarado/Trn: B. Mott):
Trainer Bill Mott’s mare out of Gemologist is a seasoned runner with experience in several major races. She competed in the BC Distaff (G1) last year, along with the Molly Pitcher (G3) and the LaTroienne (G1). Never winning a race higher than a G3, she still looks promising, but this particular spot is much tougher than any she has ever faced. Last out at Thistledown, she lost to Crystal Ball #6 in a “Non G” 125k race. Virtually in a match race, she lost the mano y mano contest … Does that speak to the fact that she might not be up to scratch? Getting Junior Alvarado back provides some stability, but she is going to have to run her very best at Saratoga. Hopefully, her fitness is high enough to get the job done, but I am concerned about the result.
#2 Gold Spirit (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: C. Brown):
A trio of Chad Brown runners are drawn in for this Grade III, and if there is a wild card in here it has to be this one. The Chilean bred 4-yr-old filly is coming to America, and trying to do something exceedingly difficult. She last ran in the Grade I St. Leger in her home country, and that was not a performance to necessarily write home about. Finishing mid-pack, 18-lengths off, does not instill confidence. Plus, that was back in December, so she is effectively coming off a 7-month break. Brown is a master trainer who has major experience at the highest levels, but even he would probably admit that this is going to be a major challenge. Javier Castellano gets the assignment, and though his mount has worked well at Payson, Monmouth, and Belmont, it still is a toss-up.
#3 Liberty M D (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: I. Wilkes):
Back in the spring, trainer Ian Wilkes put together some nice wins at Gulfstream Park. That seems like a distant memory. He doesn’t come to the SPA with a huge string, but he is sure hoping that this filly out of Constitution has what it takes to elevate in class. She is 2/2 down at Wilkes’ Churchill base, and those races on the dirt at around 1 mile were excellent. But this is a much deeper pool that she is diving into here, and there will be few floatation devices. Her regular jockey, Brian Hernandez makes the trip, and tactically-speaking, he is going to have to keep her on or near the lead if he hopes to have a remote chance of keeping pace. It probably will not happen, but horse racing is about dreams.Grade: C+
#4 Dunbar Road (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):
Owner Peter Brant invests in ones that win … at least that is seemingly the theory. Let’s put it this way, he makes shrewd choices, and his drive and determination, is evident. The ace of this field is this mare out of Quality Road, and she just ramping up her 2021 campaign. Chad Brown brought her back slowly, after she hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). You will remember that race as the epic matchup between Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver—then it wasn’t. Brown tried to bring this one back in the LaTroienne (G1) on the KYOaks undercard, but she did not fire whatsoever. Using that race as a stepping stone is probably the best way to interpret the situation. If the 5-yr-old is as good as she can be, there is no one … I mean no one … in this race that can beat her. However, Irad Ortiz is going to have to make some key decisions early which will impact how she finishes. A power runner with pressing ability … very dangerous.
#5 Antoinette (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: B. Mott):
The “other” Mott entry is a former turf racer who spent her last race looking at the backside of Fausto Gutierrez’s Letruska. Finishing 2nd in that G2 was both a blessing and a curse. Yes, she placed in-the-money, but we really have no idea just how good this Godolphin home bred really can be. Her speed figs are a bit skewed, since they are from grass races. It looks like Mott is trying something, which is not necessarily going to work. Still, even shots in the dark … educated guesses … are all welcome in a business like this one. Spotting them comes with a price, in other words. The class rating is on par with a Grade III such as this one, and it will be up to one of the best jockeys ever, John Velazquez, to get it done. The Hard Spun filly probably deserves to be second choice, but I am lukewarm on her at best.
#6 Crystal Ball (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: R. Brisset):
The former Bob Baffert filly immigrated to the Brisset Barn shortly after the Kentucky Derby. Before that, this daughter of Malibu Moon won a pair of OC races on the dirt in fine style. Brisset shipped her into Thistledown, and she outdueled Horologist #1 easily in that 125k “Non-G.” Once again, she will get Luis Saez in the saddle, and his ability right now is as great as can be expected. He is right up there with the Ortiz Bros., and that means he is dueling for the riding title. Keeping pace is paramount … However, stepping into this caliber of a contest will be a chore, and I am not convinced that she is up to the challenge. Winstar makes some sound moves, but they may need to lower their expectations a touch … more to do.
#7 Royal Flag (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: C. Brown):
The last of the “Browns” is this mare out of Candy Ride (ARG). She has game, and could play the role of spoiler, if Joel Rosario can perform some of his magic. I like her chances because she took on Brad Cox’s Bonny South at Keeneland in the Doubledogdare (G3). Though she missed by a head, it was still a gutsy performance against a hot horse with late speed. After a rest, this Farish homebred has spent June and July preparing on-track @The SPA. Her class seems spot on for this grade of a race, and she could be a square price just before this one goes off. Her conditioner is using all his available resources with this trio, and she is amazingly consistent, having never missed the board in all her 9 career races. This is a sleeper pick …
Join us Saturday for all of our Saratoga selections! Should be a great set of races from The SPA!