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Complexion set for stakes debut in $175K Schuylerville on Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The well-bred Complexion will look to build upon an impressive debut score when she headlines a talented field of 11 in Thursday’s Listed $175,000 Schuylerville, a six-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The Schuylerville, slated for Race 10 on Thursday’s 11-race card, kicks off stakes action on Opening Day of the 40-day summer meet at Saratoga, which features 71 stakes worth $20.75 million. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Trained by Danny Gargan for owners Arnmore Thoroughbreds and Carl and Yurie Pascarella, the Complexity chestnut, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winner Jack Christopher, is out of the Half Ours mare Rushin No Blushin – a half-sister to dual Grade 1-winner Street Boss.

It was not a smooth debut trip for Complexion, who bobbled at the break from the outermost post 9 under returning Hall of Fame pilot John Velazquez traveling five-furlongs on June 14 at Belmont at the Big A. However, she recovered quickly and was always in command thereafter through splits of 23.20 seconds and 46.41 over the fast main track en route to a 6 1/2-length score in a final time of 58.20. The winning effort garnered a field-best 77 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She stumbled at the start and was able to pick herself up,” Gargan said. “Johnny was probably the most confident I’ve ever had a jockey walk in the paddock with me. I never expect to win first out, and he looked over and said, ‘Well, you’re going to win first out today.’ It’s exciting to get to ride Johnny on a few good horses. He’s one of the best riders of all time. I’d love to win a stake with him.”

Complexion, bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate, breezed back a half-mile in 49.25 seconds Thursday over the Spa’s Oklahoma dirt training track.

“She worked really well and we’re pleased with that. Hopefully, everything keeps going forward,” said Gargan, who secured his first American Classic win last month when Dornoch captured the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets. “I don’t win first time out, so that was pretty impressive to me. That’s probably the best first-time starter I’ve ever run. Her first race – I was really impressed with her.”

Velazquez, a record five-time Schuylerville winner, has the call from post 5.

Whatintheliteral [post 8, Javier Castellano] graduated in style under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in the 5 1/2-furlong Astoria on June 6 Opening Day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga.

Trained by Jena Antonucci for owners horseOlogy Racing and Craig Steinhart, the Lord Nelson dark bay entered the Astoria from a pair of starts traveling 4 1/2-furlongs under Castellano at Keeneland. Whatintheliteral broke alertly from post 2 in her April 7 debut but dropped back suddenly out of the chute before coming on again late to finish fifth. She followed with a third on April 24 where she closed willingly to miss by less than a length.

“First time out, she broke like a rocket and got across that chute coming to the rail – took a big hard peek at it and caught Javier by surprise and they lost their momentum. She actually came back on well in that start,” Antonucci said. “Second start she just ran out of runway – she was coming and I think two jumps more she was past them. I think 4 1/2-furlongs was too short for her and obviously the 5 1/2-furlongs suited her better.”

It took a gritty performance from Whatintheliteral to break her maiden at the Spa – but the game effort didn’t come as a surprise to Antonucci, who said the talented filly lives up to her name.

“She always has a stink-eye on her and that’s what it looks like she’s saying to us,” said Antonucci, with a laugh. “She loves the job. She’s actually a sweetheart and a ton of fun, but her expression is that of her name.”

Whatintheliteral exited the inside post in the Astoria and paved the way through splits of 22.16 seconds and 45.79 over the fast main track with returning rival Aoraki applying pressure to her outside in second position and French Horn stalking from third.

Aoraki came over slightly on Whatintheliteral as the duo straightened away for the stretch run and the pair engaged in a stirring stretch duel, going head-and-head the length of the stretch with Whatintheliteral persevering to notch the head win. A stewards’ inquiry into the stretch run resulted in no change to the order of finish. The winning effort registered a 69 Beyer.

“We didn’t expect to be sitting a front-end trip. We fully expected someone else to go because she made such a nice close at Keeneland,” Antonucci explained. “She inherited the lead, sat there and took the pressure all the way around. To watch her be so determined – she’s growing and learning and doing – and clearly it means something to her [to win] and I’m pretty proud of her for figuring those things out.”

And that the dark bay dug in when challenged to earn the win proved to Antonucci that Whatintheliteral has the intangible qualities of a good horse.

“I told ya – her name didn’t come out of nothing,” said Antonucci, who teamed up with Castellano to win the 2023 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes with Arcangelo. “Those are the things you can’t really teach them – they either want that or they don’t.”

Whatintheliteral has breezed back twice over the Saratoga main track, including a five-eighths effort Tuesday in 1:01.43.

“She’s great. She’s her normal, sassy self,” Antonucci said. “Now it’s just me being out of her way and letting her be in her happy space. Her fitness will keep growing as she keeps racing, so we’ll just do our best to keep her happy.”

Whatintheliteral, bred in Florida by Antonucci’s Bella Inizio Farm, is out of the Antonucci-campaigned New York-bred Freud mare Lilikoi, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-placed Manchurian High.

Will Stroud’s Long Neck Paula [post 9, Flavien Prat] was an impressive debut winner on May 2 at Churchill Downs, leaving the outermost post 11 to make every pole a winning one with Velazquez up for trainer Wesley Ward.

She was scratched by rule by the stewards from the Astoria after leaving the Saratoga grounds earlier that week, without permission, for a cold-water treatment at Burke Equine Therapy.

Long Neck Paula worked a bullet half-mile from the gate in 48 flat on June 28 over the Oklahoma dirt training track, best of 61 efforts at the distance on the day, and followed with a five-eighths breeze this morning in 1:03.24 over the Spa main track.

“She’s doing super. She keeps getting better and better. We’re excited about this race,” Ward said. “She had a really nice work from the gate the other day – the fastest work of the day with my assistant Melanie Moliere on. She just cruised right around there all by herself and did everything right. She came back and scoped clean – very sound.”

The Uncle Mo bay, out of the graded stakes-winning Take Charge Indy mare Take Charge Paula, was selected by Ward for $500,000 at the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

“A lot of these 2-year-olds you get from the sales, you’re kind of figuring them out as opposed to the ones I broke and trained from a yearling,” Ward said. “So, the gate is always a bit of a question mark because they emphasize a lot on speed but nothing from the gate when you get them. She was a real quick learner. She came out of there with her first step, and she was gone in her debut.

“The only thing that worries me about these early races, especially stretching out to six furlongs, is they’re all 2-year-olds that have broken their maiden and they’re very fast horses. Everyone has speed and that’s why they’re in these early stakes,” Ward added. “Sometimes they can go a little too fast early for how old they are just being young horses. To sustain it for three-quarters-of-a-mile is really tough, so the pace is crucial. If they go too fast early, these 2-year-olds can’t kick on like the older horses can.”

With Velazquez committed to Complexion, Ward has entrusted Flavien Prat – who won five races on Thursday’s card at Belmont at the Big A – to meter out Long Neck Paula’s speed.

“He’s a very smart rider – a very heady rider – and I’m sure he’ll take all of that into consideration and try to ride the best race as it comes up,” Ward said.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen sends out a solid duo in Aoraki [post 1, Joel Rosario] and Viggiedal [post 10, Tyler Gaffalione] as he looks to secure his fourth win in this event following past success with Jardin [2008], Hot Dixie Chick [2009] and Brazen Persuasion [2013].

OXO Equine and Susan Montanye’s Aoraki rallied to a debut score in May traveling five furlongs in a restricted maiden sprint at Churchill Downs. Last out, in the Astoria, she fought tooth-and-nail with Whatintheliteral in a game runner-up effort.

The Dominus bay was an $11,000 purchase at the 2023 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.

CJ Stables’ Viggiedal romped to a frontrunning five-length score in her June 14 debut sprinting five furlongs at Churchill. The swift score stopped the clock in a final time of 57.26 and earned a 76 Beyer.

Viggiedal is by freshman sire Vekoma, who has produced 10 2-year-olds winners this year – one more than Complexity. She worked back five-eighths in 1:03.69 on June 28 over the Oklahoma training track.

Viggiedal is out of the winning Unbridled’s Song mare Minnelli, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Wow Me Free and stakes-winner La Perouse. Her graded stakes-winning third dam, Triple Wow, produced Canada’s 1994 Horse of the Year Alywow – winner of that year’s Grade 3 Nijana on the Saratoga turf.

Repole Stable’s New York-homebred Carmen’s Candy Jar [post 6, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] made an auspicious debut on June 23 at Belmont at the Big A, saving ground in third position before angling off the rail late to notch a one-length win in a five-furlong state-bred maiden special weight. She stopped the clock in 58.53 over the fast main track and earned a 70 Beyer.

Carmen’s Candy Jar, by Vino Rosso, is named in honor of Carmen M. Barrera, NYRA’s longtime director of horsemen’s relations who passed unexpectedly in 2019. She will look to give Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher a standalone record seventh Schuylerville win following past success with Freedom’s Daughter [2002], Ashado [2003], Cotton Blossom [2006], Georgie’s Angel [2011], Fashion Alert [2014] and Sweet Loretta [2016].

Carmen’s Candy Jar is the first foal out of the unraced Uncle Mo mare No Mo Shopping, who is a half-sister to dual graded stakes-winner Always Shopping and a full sister to graded stakes-placed Mo Shopping. Her second dam is multiple graded stakes-placed Stopshoppingmaria.

Sherbini [post 3, Florent Geroux], by Cairo Prince, upset an 11-horse restricted maiden sprint at odds of 11-1 in her June 16 debut at Churchill.

Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse for owners Hunsicker Equine Associates, Rocky Top Stable, James Ventura and Quintessential Racing Florida, Sherbini exited alertly from post 3 under Florent Geroux and saved ground from fourth position. She advanced outside Flaming Glory through the turn to make a three-wide bid at the pacesetting Dare to Breeze and despite lugging in at the top of the lane drove clear to a 3 1/2-length score over fast-closing Strong State.

Sherbini, a $40,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase, is out of the Violence mare Shady Violence. Her third dam is multiple graded stakes-winner Smokey Glacken, a half-sister to 1997 Champion Sprinter Smoke Glacken.

A talented field of 11 includes the George Weaver-trained West Memorial [post 2, Manny Franco], who captured the Kentucky Juvenile against males in May at Churchill Downs; along with maiden winners Dreamgirl [post 7, Luis Saez] for trainer Mike Maker; the Norm Casse-trained Slang [post 4, Ricardo Santana, Jr.]; and The Queens M G [post 11, Dylan Davis] for conditioner Saffie Joseph, Jr.

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