HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, July 22-23 — The four-horse Shuvee, which matched up two brilliant race mares, a race within a race, turned out to be more one-side than expected.
Going in, Clairiere was at tops. Going in, Nest had the pace advantage, but what about that transition from 3 to 4. Again, this time rhetorically, what about that transition from 3 to 4?
Coming out of the 9 furlong Grade 2 Shuvee, there were no more questions.
Nest was best.
Both winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. and Joel Rosario rode great races tactically. But the fillies settled it between themselves. Just as Clairiere made her move inside–and she has won races down on the inside before, Nest, who surged to the lead at headstretch, found another gear.
But that’s what the good ones do.
So what happens when they meet next time, when the pace possibly is more suitable to Clairiere’s style. The 4-year-old Nest looked like a bigger, better individual who dominated the three year olds of 2022.
If yesterday was an example of matchups to come, it won’t matter, Nest will always have a tactical advantage and appears even stronger. What a mare. What a training performance from a Hall of Famer, the leading money-winning trainer of all time.
The essence of Saratoga racing is two-year-old racing and the day’s seventh was the featured event for babies.
The race was loaded with babies and chuck full of big time outfits and money showed all over from many. The winner, and the next four finishers, certainly have next starts to look forward to, perhaps even those in the back. In order, here’s how the first five finishers fared today–and what the future might hold:
VALENTINE CANDY closed at 3-1 in the late wagering and the money was right. Racecaller Frank Mirahmadi had it right, too: “Valentine Candy had it won right out of the gate,” or something to that effect, opening three lengths in a blink without being asked as many well bred and well bet newcomers frantically hustled to catch up. Ricardo Santana Jr. showed confidence on the turn, allowing the handsome chestnut to cruise out front, sneaking a peek back later on in a sign of confidence. Understandably, he tired in the final yards but the issue was never in doubt. He was a consummate professional out there.
PROTECTIVE ran super. Leading the second pack, Irad Ortiz stayed inside saving ground at the turn showing him the crop left-handed. Approaching headstretch, Ortiz wheeled him out into the 6-path and the colt finished strongly all the way down the lane, looking very much like a next out winner. Added ground will be his friend.
ANOINTED, like the runnerup a Todd Pletcher trainee, also has his best races in front of him. He was hustled up and raced between horses early, dropped back. at the half-mile pole, remained outside at the turn racing a bit greenly, was carried seven wide into the stretch and finished courageously for third in an excellent educational run.
GENERAL PARTNER was hustled to chase the winner from the inside in a bid to maintain forward position which he did through the turn, tipped out to make a bid and ran strongly to the eighth pole but stayed one-paced thereafter but tired from those early exertions. Should get a lot out of this run.
DIVE BOMBER attracted the most attention on the tote board and perhaps indicated he might be the most exciting prospect of all. He raced head to head between three rivals at various points on the backstretch, appeared to shy away from the fence entering the far turn, was taken out to the 5-path approaching midstretch, battled with a rival soon after entering the straight, altered course again to the inside and ran strongly to the furlong pole, tiring late, but he kept chugging to the wire. I’m exhausted just writing about it…
WAR PAINT was so good wining the CCAO and ran herself squarely into the picture for a divisional title. Coming from last behind lazy fractions, she angled out widest of all entering the lane, and just when it appeared that a very good Sacred Wish would steal the 8 furlong Grade 1, the Godolphin blue color-bearer lengthened stride and nail the lead right on the money.
Don’t know what it is with these latter-day superstar West Coast riders who eventually come east. First it was Joel Rosario, now it’s Flavien Prat, but someone ought to test them. Their blood runs cold when astride talented late runners; they never rattle. Amazing timing mixed with power, It’s a treat to watch them at work.
Good news about Jose Ortiz, who was unseated from his mount Same Old Fears after the filly clipped heels and fell at the finish line in Friday’s first race.
Tested at Albany Medical Friday afternoon, it was learned Ortiz suffered no serious injuries beyond sustaining sore ribs from the incident and his return as of Friday evening was reported as “day to day.”
The Saratoga racing office reported that Ortiz will be off all his mounts Saturday according to the Clerk of Scales. His status for Sunday is unknown as of this posting. Will update as further news becomes available.
Sunday’s Grade 2 Shuvee features last year’s heroine Clairiere vs. three rivals. Before thinking such is the state of the game’s dearth of racing stock, ask yourself, as a supposed owner of an older mare, whether you’d been filling the entry box to take on 2023’s divisional leader and 2022’s 3-year-old filly champion.
Me neither–even if it is Nest’s first run since November.’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
As for her Shuvee chances, she’s been in steady training since May, is 2-for-2 over today’s surface, and 3-for-5 with one placing at today’s trip.
Meanwhile, Clairiere is seeking a Shuvee repeat, is riding a two race Grade 1 winning streak and has a huge recency edge . For those looking to upset the imposing favorite, her Spa and distance records are not imposing as she brings a (4) 1-1-1 Spa slate and a (6) 1-0-2 mark at nine furlongs to the dance. So there is that.
As for the other rivals, both appear to be in for shares of the $200,000 pot. Here is the lineup, such as it is, with HRI Trip Notes of interest with early line odds.
SKRATCH KAT (20-1) outrun backstretch behind dominant speed rival, made rally move on turn, no match while lugging in on left lead through stretch.
NEST (4-5) [2022 Coaching Club Oaks] was very keen entering first turn, restrained speed backstretch between horses in two-rival attack, shook off Secret Oath’s turn challenge, driven out, in hand deep stretch.
PISTOL LIZ ABLAZEN (15-1) restrained speed between rivals first turn, still between in close quarters 3/4 pole and took back behind subsequent duel, 4-wide rally move approaching headstretch, ridden out, taken in hand late stretch.
CLAIRIERE (3-5) [2022 Shuvee] restrained speed leaving gate, allowed to drop back backstretch, steadied inside approaching headstretch, got through on fence, strong finish on rail through stretch (second straight win over Malathaat).
The Skinny: Recency angle too much to overcome. Taking what’s given. Obvious single for horizontal-pool players.
this is a live column, updated throughout the day