Proof positive, if it were needed, that racing is a game of uncertainties and that every day at the track is a school day; came with the upset victory of Maracuja in the Grade 1 CCA Oaks at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Maracuja Takes G1 Coaching Club American Oaks
There were only four runners in the $500,000 feature for three-year-old fillies on the main track, and the overwhelming favourite was the unbeaten Malathaat; who was seeking a sixth successive victory. For eight and a half of the nine furlongs, everything was going as expected, and Malathaat was heading for a routine success. Then, from out of the blue sky; Maracuja swooped to collar the front-running favourite and put her iron grey head in front under the wire.
Saratoga is well known as the Graveyard of Champions; add another to the list.
Ten minutes before the gates opened; there was no way Maracuja could beat Malathaat, but that’s why they have to run the race instead of simply talking about it. Last time out, Malathaat had won the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with Maracuja a well-beaten seventh. But that’s racing. Maracuja, trained by Rob Atras and ridden by Ricardo Santana; covered the distance in 1:49 and change and paid her few advocates $31.40 at the windows. Clairiere filled third spot.
“It’s really thrilling. It still hasn’t set in that I won a Grade 1 stake.” said Yankees fan Atras, 37; who had only won two Graded stakes in his career before Saturday. “To beat a filly as accomplished as Malathaat is special.”
Maracuja is now expected to return to the Spa next month for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes over a mile and a quarter, in which the daughter of Honor Code will certainly not be the longshot of the entire field.
Malathaat may join her. Who can tell which way it’ll go?
G3 Caress Stakes
The $200,000 Grade 3 Caress Stakes for older fillies and mares on the undercard had a more logical outcome, when Caravel, another grey, showed her rivals a clean pair of heels under Irad Ortiz to close out the five and a half furlongs on turf in a time of 1:02. She had two and a half lengths to spare over In Good Spirits and Robin Sparkles and paid $4.00 on the mutuel.
It was the first Graded success of trainer Elizabeth Merryman’s career, but she won’t be winning any more with Caravel, who now joins Graham Motion after a pre-race change of majority ownership.
G3 Shuvee Stakes
The third piece in the weekend’s distaff puzzle at the Spa slotted into place on Sunday, when Royal Flag finished fastest and latest to take the nine-furlong, $200,000 Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes by three-quarters of a length under jockey Joel Rosario, giving local hero Chad Brown – who saddled three of the six runners – yet another big-race success at Saratoga.
The five-year-old daughter of Candy Ride, runner-up in the Shuvee 12 months earlier, came down the centre of the track to catch long-time leader Horologist and score by three-quarters of a length in 1:49 and change, with Crystal Ball a head further back in third. Royal Flag paid $5.30 for the win and is likely to return for next month’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes.
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