By Gene Kershner
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The first Grade 1 race on the Saratoga racing schedule this summer is Saturday afternoon’s Coaching Club American Oaks (CCAO), a big race on the 3-year old filly racing calendar. It is the first of two major Grade 1 races for 3-year-old fillies during the Spa’s 40 days of racing, the second being the Alabama Stakes to be held on Aug. 18.
The CCAO will send six entries to post at 5:45 p.m. on the first Saturday of the prestigious race meet. The race will feature the winners of the Mother Goose (G1), Black-Eyed Susan (G2), Davona Dale (G2) and Demoiselle (G2). While it may be a small field, it makes up for it in quality fillies.
The 96th renewal of the race will be run for $300,000 over 1 1/8-miles on the traditional dirt track. Last year’s winner It’s Tricky is still racing at four and has been a tremendous former champion. Let’s take a look at this year’s CCAO challengers (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 – Questing (McLaughlin, Ortiz Jr., 3-1) – The Godolphin filly had a monster outing last out, leading to the low morning line for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin who won last year’s race with It’s Tricky. She’s yet to travel the 9-furlong distance, but her breeding (Hard Spun, out of the Seeking The Gold mare Chercheuse) suggests it shouldn’t be an issue. I tend to shy away from the first time balloon speed figures in the next race out, so I’ll pass on backing her in the CCAO.
2 – Disposablepleasure (Pletcher, Napravnik, 4-1) – Finished second to rival stable mate In Lingerie in the Black-Eyed Susan at the same distance. Came back to finish behind Zo Impressive in the Mother Goose for trainer Todd Pletcher. Rosie gets the mount for the first time in her first full meet racing at Saratoga. This filly won the 9-furlong Grade 2 Demoiselle as a 2-year-old at Aqueduct. She shows an impressive workout on July 15, breezing four furlongs, finishing only behind In Lingerie that day. Will she shed the bridesmaid label on Saturday?
3 – Yara (Guererro, Rosario, 15-1) – Davona Dale winner during the winter Gulfstream meeting puts on the blinkers and garners west coast rider Rosario riding for the first year full-time at Saratoga. It will be his initial ride on the Put It Back filly that has shown versatility going long or in sprints. Her workout tab includes back to back bullets at Belmont Park; she could be sitting on a big one and has an excellent rider aboard. Potential upset play.
4 – Funny Proposition (Casse, Bridgmohan, 8-1) – Trainer Casse won last weekend’s Prince of Wales with his Ontario-bred filly Dixie Strike at Fort Erie for owner John C. Oxley and shows up here trying to keep his owner happy. She returns to dirt after breaking badly in her last effort at Churchill on the turf – draw a line through that effort. Lightly raced Medaglia d’Oro filly was purchased two years ago at Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sale for $275K and is out of a Distorted Humor mare. We would not be surprised if she hit the board and is usable in the exotics.
5 – Zo Impressive (Albertrani, Maragh, 2-1) – Morning line favorite looks good on paper, but they don’t run the race on paper. One of two Hard Spun fillies in the race, she comes off an impressive win in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont. Her only race at the distance was the Grade 2 Gulfstream Oaks where she finished second behind early division leader Grace Hall by over six lengths after being bumped at the start. She didn’t train over the Saratoga surface and the Pletcher fillies both did impressively, so I’m playing against.
6 – In Lingerie (Pletcher, Castellano, 5-2) – Second choice has been off since mid-May’s win in the Black-Eyed Susan. Pletcher/Castellano winning at a 26 percent clip in the last 60 days and she will be looking to avenge her only career loss, courtesy of Zo Impressive. The well rested Empire Maker filly looks to be fit based on her work tab and Pletcher loves to win at the Spa. Castellano is a hot jockey who has historically rode well at Saratoga. The pick.
This year’s race is shaping up to be a good one and should be a solid indicator for what’s in store for this outstanding division for the rest of the campaign. I’m going with Pletcher’s dynamic duo and trying to beat the favorite on Saturday.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – In Lingerie; 2 – Disposablepleasure; 3 – Yara; 4 – Zo Impressive
Make sure you check out the Saratoga advance in this morning's paper.
Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.