By NYRA Press Staff – Godolphin homebred Essential Quality, last-out winner of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets, breezed five-eighths in 1:01.81 on the Saratoga Race Course main track Saturday in preparation for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy, a nine-furlong test for sophomores on July 28.
Trained by Brad Cox, the reigning Champion 2-Year-Old, with regular rider Luis Saez up, worked from the half in company with 3-year-old New York-bred maiden winner Bingo John, who was piloted by Manny Franco.
NYRA clockers caught Essential Quality in splits of 25, 48.3, 1:01.4, 1:14.2 and 1:28.3
“It was a solid move,” said Cox, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer. “It looked like he stayed on well. We wanted to let him get a little blow out of this. He had a nice gallop out.”
The Tapit grey, out of the Elusive Quality mare Delightful Quality, has won 6-of-7 starts with purse earnings in excess of $3.2 million. A five-time graded stakes winner, Essential Quality captured the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland in the final two starts of his 2-year-old campaign.
Following wins in the Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn in February and Grade 2 Blue Grass in April at Keeneland, Essential Quality finished fourth as the mutuel favorite in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.
Essential Quality was a decisive winner of the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes, outdueling Hot Rod Charlie, who will start in today’s Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park, en route to a 1 1/4-length win.
The talented colt will look to become only the 11th horse to win the Jim Dandy-Travers double, with the Mid-Summer Derby, the Grade 1, $1.25 Runhappy Travers, slated for August 28 at Saratoga.
Cox said Essential Quality is thriving at Saratoga where he has posted two works over the main track, including a half-mile in 50.44 last week.
“We have another work to come, but so far I’m happy with how everything is going,” said Cox. “From what we saw this morning, he’s doing very well.”
***G1 Coaching Club American Oaks contenders Malathaat and Maracuja on the work tab
Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat worked a half-mile in 48.05 on the Saratoga main track in company with last-out Grade 2 Mother Goose-winner Zaajel on Saturday in preparation for the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies on July 24.
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez up for the 8:45 a.m breeze, the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner Malathaat worked outside of her Shadwell stablemate, maneuvering around a pair of workers at the top of the stretch and finishing up strong.
NYRA clockers caught Malathaat out five-eighths in 1:02.3.
“She finished up excellent,” said Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. “The work was very good, it was just unfortunate they got caught up with a couple horses but it worked out fine in the end.”
Undefeated in five starts, Malathaat won the Kentucky Oaks last out on April 30 on the heels of a head score in the Grade 1 Ashland on April 3 at Keeneland.
Malathaat, by Curlin, is out of the Grade 1-winning A.P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia.
Zaajel, by Street Sense, is out of the Daaher mare Asiya. The dark bay, who boasts a record of three wins from five starts, made the grade in January with a 1 1/4-length score in the Grade 3 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park. Last out, in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose, Zaajel posted a 1 1/4-length win over Always Carina, despite being sent to post as the longest shot on the board at 18-1.
At 5:45 a.m. on the Saratoga main track, trainer Rob Atras sent out Grade 3 Gazelle runner-up Maracuja to breeze a half-mile in 49.98 in company with unraced 2-year-old Silipo.
With exercise rider Cristian Gaete up, Maracuja, who is also targeting the CCA Oaks, worked outside of her company, edging clear at the wire and galloping out in front through the turn.
“I caught her in 1:02 and change and out in 1:17,” Atras said. “I worked her a mile last week, so I didn’t want her to do too much. She worked a half in company and then she went a half by herself after.”
Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Maracuja was expected to start in the Grade 2 Mother Goose before spiking a temperature. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Honor Code was clocked a half-mile in 49.25 at Belmont on July 4 ahead of her extended breeze on July 10, timed in 52.02 for four furlongs, both on the dirt training track.
“She didn’t miss too much time,” Atras said. “We galloped her for a week and then gave her a half by herself before that move last week.
“She’s going into the race good,” Atras continued. “I know it’s going to be a tough race. I don’t know if she can mess with that filly [Malathaat], she’s pretty impressive. I’ve watched all of her races and she’s a fighter, too. I’m not saying we can beat her, but if we run a good race, even if she comes second it would be a big accomplishment for her.”
Ricardo Santana, Jr. will pick up the mount from regular pilot Kendrick Carmouche, who continues to recover from a broken ankle.
Atras said he is hopeful the late-closing Maracuja will be a little closer to the pace after rallying up the rail to finish seventh last out in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I’m hoping we’re not too far back whatever the pace is,” Atras said. “If we can get a good, sharp break and get in a decent position, we’ll let her run her race.”
Graded stakes-placed New York-bred Sadie Lady breezed shortly after Maracuja, covering a half-mile in 50.58 on the main track.
Owned by Dennis Narlinger and bred in the Empire State by JMJ Racing Stables, the speedy 5-year-old daughter of Freud captured the six-furlong Correction in March at Aqueduct ahead of a game second in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Vagrancy in May at Belmont Park. Last out, Sadie Lady made every pole a winning one in the Dancing Renee, traveling three-quarters on June 12 at Belmont.
Sadie Lady previously breezed a half-mile in 50.03 on July 5 and Atras said he gave the dark bay a little time between works.
“She worked a half 12 days ago and I’m not sure if she was a little sick after,” Atras said. “She was moving pretty good this morning. I told him to sit on her and let her do three and then gallop out a half and see how she is.”
Atras said he will consider entering Sadie Lady in the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on July 28.
“She had nice a little three-out half here and hopefully we’ll work again next week in preparation for that race,” Atras said. “I’m not sure if we’ll go in or not. These races come up pretty tough in Saratoga and I don’t want to put her in a spot where she can’t compete.”
***Call Me Love, Mutamakina likely to target G2 Glens Falls
Trainer Christophe Clement said stakes winners Call Me Love and Mutamakina will target the Grade 2, $250,000 Glens Falls, a 12-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares on August 7 at the Spa. That start will follow respective first and third-place finishes in the River Memories on July 11 at Belmont Park.
Owned by R Unicorn Stable, Call Me Love notched consecutive victories when defeating allowance optional claiming company going 1 1/16 miles on May 23 at Belmont Park en route to her River Memories coup.
The daughter of 2009 European Horse of the Year Sea the Stars was a dual grouped winner in Italy before joining Clement’s barn in 2020. She has displayed a turnaround in form after going 0-for-5 in an all-graded stakes campaign last season.
Mutamakina, a graded stakes-winning daughter of Nathaniel owned by Al Shiria’aa Stud, captured the Grade 3 Long Island in November at Aqueduct in her second start in North America. She was two-time Group 2 placed during her sophomore season in France.
“Both of them are possible for the Glens Falls. I’ll have to see how they are training and make sure it doesn’t come up too quickly, but both of them are doing well at the moment,” said Clement, a four-time Glens Falls winner. “It was nice for Call Me Love to get a stakes win. We obviously had tried it many times with her, so I was happy with her race.”
Call Me Love is out of the Rainbow Quest mare Fresnay, whose dam is French Group 1 winner Field of Hope. Mutamakina is out of the Danehill mare Joshua’s Princess, making her fourth dam was 1995 European Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Ridgewood Pearl.
*** HOF trainer Fisher brings solid contingent to Saratoga
Trainer Jack Fisher, who will be inducted to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame this summer, brings a strong set of horses to Saratoga next week for Wednesday’s Jonathan Kiser Novice and Thursday’s Grade 1, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial.
The 57-year-old Fisher, son of retired trainer John Fisher, said he’s thrilled to be joining the hallowed hall.
“I’m wondering if I should just retire now because it won’t get any better,” said Fisher, with a laugh.
Fisher credited his father and owners for the special achievement.
“My dad trained and a lot of his owners supported me with good horses,” Fisher said. “Whether you’re running over jumps or on the flat, you need that support and for people to keep feeding you nice horses. It’s all about the horses. There are other people who train just as well as I do, but they just haven’t had the success because they haven’t been lucky with that one or two good horses at the beginning and you need that.”
In Wednesday’s opening race, Fisher will saddle Robert V. LaPenta’s Fast Car and Riverdee Stable’s City Dreamer in the Jonathan Kiser. A day later he sends out Riverdee Stable’s multiple Grade 1-placed Gibralfaro and Mrs. S. K. Johnston, Jr.’s Cite in the Grade 1 Smithwick. Both races are contested at 2 1/16-miles.
Fast Car, a 5-year-old Verrazano gelding, won an allowance event over the jumps at Saratoga last July but was eased next out in the Michael G. Walsh Novice at the Spa. He finished fourth in the Green Pastures Hurdle on June 26 at Percy Warner in Nashville.
“As a jumper, I can’t knock him. He ran well last year,” Fisher said. “He had a bad race up there the last one [Michael G. Walsh], and the race at Nashville last time we were just trying to set him up for Saratoga.”
City Dreamer, a 7-year-old Casamento gelding, boasts a record of 28-3-6-2. He has finished no worse than fifth in 11 starts for Fisher, with the outlier coming last out when ninth in the Green Pastures Hurdle.
“City Dreamer is owned by the same people as Gibralfaro and he’s a hard knocking horse,” Fisher said. “He’s still a novice and he’s been there for many years and besides Nashville, he’s always picked up a check. I think he should run well up there, they both should.”
The Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick will be drawn Saturday afternoon.