2023 Test Stakes & More Saratoga Stakes Recap

On a Saturday afternoon marred by the tragic death of top filly sprinter Maple Leaf Mel, the Whitney undercard was led by Kentucky Oaks winner Pretty Mischievous, who continued her G1 spree in the 2023 Test Stakes. Refitted turf runner Cogburn made his Graded-stakes breakthrough in the G3 Troy, and Program Trading went straight from an allowance to the big league when fighting hard to win the G1 Saratoga Derby on his stakes debut.

Breeders Cup Odds

Test Stakes

G1, $500,000, 7f dirt, 3yo fillies

Tragedy in the Test

Sometimes the result of a horse race simply does not matter. The outcome of the 2023 Test Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, was one of these occasions, after the clear leader Maple Leaf Mel sustained catastrophic injuries to a foreleg 50 yards from the wire, fell and had to be euthanized. Pretty Mischievous crossed the line as the official winner, with Clearly Unhinged second and Munnys Gold third.

This was a bitter tragedy for racing and everyone involved in it, but most of all for Maple Leaf Mel’s trainer Melanie Giddings, who had recently overcome a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and owner Bill Parcells. Maple Leaf Mel was never beaten in five starts, never headed, and would have taken that sequence to six had disaster not struck in the cruelest fashion. Her jockey Joel Rosario sustained an injury to his lip and sat out the rest of the card.

For the record, the 9-5 favorite Pretty Mischievous came through late under Tyler Gaffalione to beat Clearly Unhinged by a head, with Munnys Gold a length and three-quarters back in third. It was this star filly’s third successive victory at the top level, following the 2023 G1 Kentucky Oaks and 2023 G1 Acorn.

Test Stakes Race Video

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Pretty Mischievous wins the 2023 Test Stakes

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“It’s just cruel what happened. I just feel terrible for Melanie and that whole team,” said winning trainer Brendan Walsh. “That must be gut-wrenching. My filly ran her race, but that’s another story. I don’t know what to think right now.”

There were no winner’s circle photos or celebrations. None of that mattered. “I’m lost for words right now,” said Gaffalione. “I feel so bad for the connections of Mel. It’s hard to enjoy this one thinking about that. My condolences go out to their team, and God bless them.”

2023 Test Stakes Race Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Pretty Mischievous5.703.602.70
2. Clearly Unhinged10.205.20
3. Munnys Gold3.40

Winning time: No time available

Saratoga Derby

G1, $600,000, 1m 3/16 turf, 3yo

Program cracks the code

The meteoric career of the unbeaten Program Trading went stratospheric in the Saratoga Derby, the colt making his G1 breakthrough on just his third start when gamely fighting off Webslinger in a thrilling finish, with the favored Far Bridge third.

The 7-2 second-choice showed tenacity as well as talent, as after towing the field along through the first mile at steady fractions he was caught and passed in mid-stretch by Webslinger, who took a short lead and looked in control. Program Trading would not quit, though, and battled back under Flavien Prat to regain the lead in the last few jumps, getting the money by a head.

Far Bridge could never strike a blow at the leaders, finishing a length and a half away in third, while the well-touted European challenge had no impact whatsoever.

Saratoga Derby Race Video

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Program Trading takes the 2023 Saratoga Derby #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Sports #FYP #Horse #Horsetok

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“We always thought he had the ability,” said trainer Chad Brown, winning his second Saratoga Derby. “Sometimes these horses are not made to be two-year-olds and they get their careers started later. If you are patient, you are often rewarded.”

Brown never shies away from pushing his horses into deep water without the typical seasoning and Program Trading, who only made his debut on May 14, came into this G1 exam off the back of victory in a Monmouth Park maiden and an allowance at Belmont Park

The obvious target would be the G3 Jockey Club Derby at Aqueduct on October 7 but, given that Program Trading has come a long way in a short time, Brown may give his new star a break before making a decision on his next race.

2023 Saratoga Derby Race Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Program Trading9.204.803.00
2. Webslinger4.002.80
3. Far Bridge2.50

Winning time: 1m 56.63s

Troy Stakes

G3, $300,000, 5 1/2f turf, 4yo+

Cogburn shows true grit

Sometimes a change is all you need and Cogburn demonstrated that perfectly when springing a 7-1 upset in the Troy, maintaining his unbeaten sequence since being switched to the lawn and making his Graded-stakes breakthrough with a defeat of Nobals and Thin White Duke.

Average on the main track, a rising star on turf. That is the new Cogburn, who took full advantage of the no-show from odds-on favorite Caravel, who reportedly floundered on the soft turf. Cogburn thrived on it, coming with a smooth challenge through the stretch to run down long-time leader Nobals at the sixteenth-pole, before keeping the power on to score by three-quarters of a length.

Troy Stakes Race Video

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Cogburn wins the 2023 Troy Stakes #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Sports #FYP #Horse #Horsetok

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“It was a perfect trip,” said jockey Ricardo Santana. “The horse has been improving and improving, more and more. He really liked the turf and ran hard today.”

Thin White Duke rallied from way out of the picture for third, a length and a half further back and three-quarters of a length ahead of the lacklustre Caravel.

“We put him on the turf because he was not performing as well as he trained on the dirt,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “Now we can think big. We hopefully have a Breeders’ Cup horse.”

The ‘new’ Cogburn laid the framework for this breakthrough success with two stakes victories at Lone Star Park, and given his transformation he should be able to improve on his six-for-11 count in the coming months. Asmussen won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2011 with Regally Ready, when it was a G2 contest. Now, a dozen years later, he has a contender for the G1 version of the race.

2023 Troy Stakes Race Payouts

HorseWinPlaceShow
1. Cogburn17.006.304.40
2. Nobals6.004.20
3. Thin White Duke4.70

Winning time: 1m 03.70s

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