Tonasah’s skittish debut is ancient history now

Anyone with a case of stage fright likely will spend as little time on stage as possible. The opposi
Tonasah, owned by StarLadies Racing, is schooled in the paddock at Saratoga Race Course Thursday.
Tonasah, owned by StarLadies Racing, is schooled in the paddock at Saratoga Race Course Thursday.

Anyone with a case of stage fright likely will spend as little time on stage as possible.

The opposite was the case for the 2-year-old filly Tonasah.

On June 4, she was scheduled to run in the Astoria Stakes, an ambitious but appropriate career debut at Belmont Park.

When she was handed off to the lead pony to escort her to the starting gate, Tonasah recoiled in fright, dumping jockey Javier Castellano to the ground.

And off she went, leading the outriders on an eight-minute stop-and-start chase all over the massive Belmont main track.

Fortunately for StarLadies Racing, it appears to have been a passing thing, as Tonasah ran professionally in a 5 1⁄2-length victory at Belmont four weeks later. She’ll hit the big stage on Saturday, when she’ll be the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Grade II Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Laurie Wolf, StarLadies co-managing partner with Barbara Lucarelli of Duanesburg, was at Belmont the day of the Astoria. When asked what she was thinking when her filly was running all over the place, she laughed and said, “Besides wanting to throw up a few times?”

It was a nerve-racking experience for the owners, but Tonasah got back to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn showing no signs of the ordeal other than being tuckered out.

With no one to control her after Castellano fell out of the saddle, Tonasah bolted all over the racetrack, occasionally taking breathers until an outrider came within her vicinity, at which point she went on her merry way again.

At least three times, she cut sharply behind an outrider who was slowing up to grab her reins, and sprinted off on the other side of the pony.

It took about eight minutes to catch her, by which point, according to one estimate, she had run about three miles, on a day when was supposed to have raced just 5 1⁄2 furlongs, less than three-quarters of a mile.

“It was fairly straightforward,” Pletcher said. “She got scared when the pony boy grabbed her. She kind of shied away and fell back and lost Javier and took a tour around the track. She was a little tricky to catch. She was crafty about it. But no harm was done.”

That’s the amazing part.

For all her shenanigans, Tonasah never attempted to leave the track, which would’ve been an injury waiting to happen if she had tried to hop the rail.

That left her tired, but unscathed, back in the comfort and familiarity of her stall.

“Not a scratch on her. Not . . . a . . . scratch,” Wolf said. “We went right back to the barn as soon as I talked to her grooms and went to see her, and no worse for wear.

“I was actually quite impressed. I mean, I hated to see her shy away and then drop Javier, obviously, but the athleticism she was showing by outrunning and dodging these ponies was impressive.”

“She ran around for a long time, but, thankfully, she never ran into anything or tried to jump over anything or do some of the things that sometimes you’ll see a loose horse do,” Pletcher said. “She dove right into her feed tub at dinnertime and never really missed a beat after that. We just kind of were cautious with her coming back and didn’t run her back too soon or run her at all until we paddock-schooled her some and made sure we tried to prevent that from happening again.”

Her career debut, the one that she actually ran, went off without a hitch.

Tonasah was the 4-5 betting favorite in a maiden race on July 2 and ran her seven rivals off their feet.

Perhaps more importantly, she was a good girl when the lead pony handoff occurred.

“I think we were all holding our breath,” Wolf said. “Then once we saw that, it was a relief. And she’s maturing a lot, so it’s getting better and better.”

“That was very straightforward,” Pletcher said. “She broke super-sharp, and it was pretty much over at that point. Javier rode her very confidently, and pretty much wrapped up on her at the eighth pole.”

Tonasah, a daughter of Malibu Moon who was purchased for $250,000 at the Keeneland September Sale last year, faces a tough field in the Adirondack.

She’s one of five in the seven-horse field who is coming off an impressive career debut victory.

With the stage fright behind her, StarLadies is happy to move on to the part of her career where they learn more about how good she could be.

“She’s training well, Todd’s happy with her, she looks great,” Wolf said. “She likes to get carrots as treats, so she’s doing fine. We’ll see what we’ve got. It’ll be nice to see. That’s what you do up here in Saratoga, right?”

Categories: Sports

Leave a Reply