Saratoga Springs, NY, August 23, 2022—Ladies Day. Three three-year old fillies had themselves quite a day this past Saturday. No hyperbole needed, only superlatives all around.
Nest won the Alabama with such authority that she was being compared to her male counterparts minutes after the race was made official, some observers hinting she was there equal, or more.
We’ve been on record since she won the Ashland by 8-1/4, running so well that her tank might not have been full to the brim when she took on the very worthy Secret Oath, who would finish two lengths ahead of her in the Kentucky Oaks.
When next they met in the Coaching Club American Oaks, Nest returned the favor with a vengeance, beating her Oaks conqueror by an even dozen, after her tougher-trip second to mate Mo Donegal at a mile and a half on Long Island.
There was no regression this time, however. Ridden like the best filly she is, she stalked perfectly throughout and took command at headstretch with such authority there’s was no need for Riad to race-ride her to victory.
Oh, there was some floating-wide-entering, and some crossing over approaching the furlong pole, but she was so far in front that it didn’t matter what Ortiz Jr. did. She was home free in 2:03.14 on Saratoga’s demanding surface, her final half-mile in a race-horse :48.77.
Secret Oath was not embarrassed this time, making some ground despite laying fifth off an opening half-mile in a dawdling 49.98. Stalking the longest shot in the field comfortably, Nest got first run and no one came close.
Is she the best three-year-old in America? Could be. Could be not. Until she beats a male the caliber of Epicenter, we will reserve judgment on that proposition.
ED NOTE: After this column was posted, results from a National Racing Association’s weekly poll of turf writers and broadcasters indicated that Nest’s Alabama victory enabled her to be ranked the top three-year-old in America, surpassing Epicenter, et al
North of the border was a bit of a different story on Sunday if the 163rd Queen’s Plate is any measure: The filly Moira clearly is the best sophomore bred or racing in Canada this year.
She made a seemingly effortless balcony sweep on the turn en route to a seven-length, track-record score, Rafael Hernandez doing his best Jean Cruguet circa 1977 Belmont impression in deep stretch, easing his under the line before galloping out 10 in front.
Good on trainer Kevin Attard for getting his first Queen’s Plate after 10 tries, and the filly, who beat 10 rivals to become the 10th Queens Plate victress. And good on breeder Adena Springs, too, closely associated with Canadian sport for decades.
A day earlier out west, meanwhile, about three hours after the running of the Alabama, the magnificent Spendarella underscored the notion that she is America’s top sophomore filly on grass and appearing she’s ready for bigger challenges.
After briefly coming together with a rival soon after the start, Tyler Gaffalione, who rode her to victory in the G2 Appalachian, regained the mount after William Buick was given the ride in Ascot’s G1 Coronation Stakes.
On that occasion, Spendarella did much of the dirty work, battling for over a quarter mile in deep stretch before placing quite gamely behind the brilliant Inspiral, herself a Grade 1 winner on this weekend over there.
On Saturday, Gaffalione established position with Spendarella’s natural speed, setting up a perfect-trip third behind dueling leaders. When Tyler moved his hands approaching headstretch, the filly launched and was gone before her rivals knew what happened.
The Gainesway bred and owned filly was winning her fourth race in five starts, getting her first Grade 1, and likely will reappear against her own kind again at Keeneland before tackling elders on the big stage come November.
Back at Saratoga on Sunday, Wesley Ward introduced one of the favorites, if not the favorite, for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in Love Reigns, a very clever daughter of U.S. Navy Flag.
When ready, Irad tipped her out from behind the pacesetter and routinely took the lead. The filly was brilliant on Keeneland debut, winning by 9-3/4s, flew to Ascot and was an excellent fourth, beaten three lengths in the 21-filly G2 Queen Mary. Freshened thereafter, she’s quite the prospect.
Finally, the three-year-old boys will get to do their thing this weekend, testing their mettle in the Derby of Midsummer. The fast ones will test themselves in the G1 Allen Jerkens. The Travers draw is set for 5:30 pm today.