JULY 18, 2019—At long last, we’re coming to that portion of the Spa season that makes Saratoga the Thoroughbred Race Place to Be. Prime time main track racing begins Saturday’s with Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks.
And it features a budding super star.
We’re old enough to remember the day when the CCAO was a grueling mile and a half and completed the bygone filly triple crown. (Mr. Hirsch said Filly Triple Crown should be lower case so as not to confuse it with the real deal).
Anyway, the race is no longer 12 furlongs, sadly, it’s nine, and it’s not the Belmont Park summer fixture it was back in the day when it completed the triad with the Acorn (mile) and Mother Goose (mile and-an-eighth).
Obviously, the dynamics of the Acorn have remained the same. The Mother Goose is still run at Belmont Park, shortened to at a mile and-a-sixteenth around one turn. The discontinued former series now concludes in Saratoga, at the latter day “marathon distance” of nine furlongs.
If form holds, Saturday’s small-field CCAO will not be competitive at the end. This time, a small field is justified. I fanaticize that I could own a race horse worthy enough to compete at the highest levels. If I did, and if it were a 3-year-old filly, I too would be ducking Guarana.
I have no idea how good she is; maybe not even Chad Brown knows. She broke maiden on debut at Keeneland by a neck shy of 15 lengths. All she did next out was jump into a Grade 1, winning the Acorn by six over Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress.
That filly, who obviously won at nine furlongs when dominating the Oaks field, could have run back Saturday. But she’s targeting the G1 Test at seven furlongs as her main Spa objective, Tom Amoss making the prudent choice.
Guarana drew the rail Saturday and will be partnered with Jose Ortiz, an advantage she didn’t need with the short run into the clubhouse turn. But the race is no walkover thanks to the presence of Ian Wilkes trainee, Champagne Anyone.
A daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Champagne Anyone finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks after leaving South Florida with hardware she earned in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks.
Beating Guarana, the most visually impressive winner on Long Island Belmont Stakes day—that includes Mitole–will be a completely different ballgame. “I freshened her up, backed off, and just was trying to get her ready for this race.”
No doubt Champagne Anyone will be set to go. To win the race, however, she’ll need to step up. Same story for another good CCAO performer, G2 Black-Eyed Susan winner, the promising Point of Honor. Completing the short field are Boxwood and Off Topic.
Resultantly, the CCAO will be run at the third race on Saturday’s 11-race card. The Caress, for older sprinting turf mares at 5-1/2 furlongs, attracted nine entrants. Significant Form and Morticia are the likely favorites.
Jason Servis will have all his attention focused on Maximum Security in Saturday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. The million-dollar event also offers a free pass into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But he has another Grade 1 to look forward to next weekend with Firenze Fire in the six-furlong Vanderbilt.
“He’s cutting back to a sprint after running in the Met Mile,” said Servis. “If you look at his race in the [six furlong] Runhappy, he ran a huge. [Met Mile winner] Mitole will be in there and it looks like we’re getting another crack at him.” Firenze Fire won Saratoga’s Sanford as a 2017 juvenile.
Careful what you wish for.
Another possible Vanderbilt rival is defending Vanderbilt titlist Imperial Hint, who ran off the screen winning the 2018 renewal, earning a huge figure on everyone’s speed scale.
However, trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. is not certain he will be fit enough to take on Mitole, Firenze Fire and all the rest. Imperial Hint worked a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.40 at Monmouth Park Wednesday morning – the fastest of 17 recorded works at the distance.
“That’s him…he always works fast,” Carvajal said. “I think I’m a little short on time and I want to make sure he’s fit enough. I need to discuss with the owner, so I’m not 100 percent sure where we’ll run.” There’s a much softer Spa spot in the condition book, August 9.