It’s Tricky is back to her quirky, misbehaving ways.
Just the way trainer Kiaran McLaughlin likes her.
The 3-year-old Mineshaft filly’s Gulfstream Park Oaks jumps off the page as the only loss on an otherwise sparkling resume that shows four victories by a combined 181⁄4 lengths.
She was fourth, 221⁄4 lengths behind R Heat Lightning, on April 2, after having exhibited perfectly proper manners during training hours, a telltale sign that a bad race was on the horizon.
Lately, this is what McLaughlin has been seeing: It’s Tricky wheeling away from the lead pony during training, and balking at the stall when she’s back from her work.
That’s how she usually acts, and she usually wins, so McLaughlin feels good about It’s Tricky heading into today’s Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course.
The race, which will be shown live during a 5-6 p.m. NBC broadcast, drew a short field of five, but they’re all top prospects in the 3-year-old filly division and very evenly matched.
It’s Tricky is coming off a win in the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park in June, after her bomb in the Gulfstream Oaks.
“It’s a throwout race,” McLaughlin said. “She came down there and did everything right, and she’s tricky to train, she’s difficult.
“She was doing everything properly and wasn’t the same, and we were worried about it, that she was being too good and quiet and a nice little lady in the morning training. Also, the winner that day was very, very impressive. We just didn’t run well and threw the race out, and so far, so good.”
It’s Tricky lost to R Heat Lightning, who returned to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn just before the meet and isn’t expected to race at Saratoga while recovering from a chip in her knee.
Pletcher isn’t without another filly for the CCA Oaks, though, and will send out Buster’s Ready off her win in the Grade I Mother Goose.
It’s Tricky won the Busher at Aqueduct by eight lengths, but wasn’t herself in Florida, McLaughlin said, and he hopes that it wasn’t because of the Florida heat.
Saratoga is scheduled to get another hot one today.
The CCA Oaks fillies will go a mile and an eighth.
“She won impressively in a one-turn mile last time, so this is two turns, mile and an eighth, it’s a little different,” McLaughlin said. “But we feel like we should get it, with her pedigree, being by Mineshaft. She’ll be able to get the distance, and she won twice going two turns this winter at Aqueduct.
Yeah, she’s back to being tricky.
“The nice thing is we’re a Grade I winner, so they can’t take that away from us. Going forward, whatever happens is gravy.”
Despite the short field, the CCA Oaks brings together the Kentucky Oaks winner (Plum Pretty), the Black-Eyed Susan winner (Royal Delta), the Acorn winner and the top two from the Mother Goose (Buster’s Ready, Joyful Victory).
“It’s a quality group of five,” McLaughlin said. “We drew well outside, so we can break and see what’s going on inside of us, because they all have the same kind of style, they’re all pretty close.
“It’s [division] wide-open, but they’re pretty nice fillies. I’m sure there’s a couple more coming for the Alabama, like Zazu. There’s some nice fillies out there that are very talented. There maybe isn’t 20 of them, but there’s 10.”
“I think it’s completely wide open,” Pletcher said. “It’s very similar to the colts. Anybody who puts together a run here, two or three consecutive good races or wins, could very well take control of it.”
Plum Pretty is shipping from California for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert off her second by a length and a half to Zazu in the Hollywood Oaks on the synthetic main track at Hollywood Park.
“I think she likes the dirt better,” Baffert assistant Jim Barnes told the New York Racing Association. “In small fields, you have to ride them a little bit differently. You have to take it to them early. We kind of sat and waited, and waited and waited. She came out of that race all right, and here we are.”