Saratoga notes: Jones seeks repeat Oaks/Alabama win

Since the Alabama was first run in 1875, 13 fillies have won both the Kentucky Oaks and Saratoga Rac

Since the Alabama was first run in 1875, 13 fillies have won both the Kentucky Oaks and Saratoga Race Course’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies.

One of those 13, Proud Spell, did it in 2008 for trainer Larry Jones, and he would love to repeat the feat on Saturday, when he’ll saddle Lovely Maria and I’m a Chatterbox in the $600,000 race.

Lovely Maria won the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 1 and is coming off a fifth in the Delaware Oaks. She and her stablemate, who finished first in the Coaching Club American Oaks but was disqualified to second earlier in the meet, arrived in Saratoga from Delaware Park early Wednesday morning in a trailer pulled by their trainer’s truck.

“They got in about 6:45 this morning, and they’re both doing well,” Jones told the New York Racing Association. “All is good. They both blew out on Monday, and breezed well. We galloped them Tuesday morning and they came out of it well, so here we are.”

Jones’ fillies will face five rivals, including Curalina, who benefited from I’m a Chatterbox’s disqualification to win the CCA Oaks.

The field, in post position order, will be Danette, Curalina, Lovely Maria, I’m a Chatterbox, Embellish the Lace, Include Betty and Sweetgrass.


Using a different tactic than she did in her career debut, Simple Surprise came from off the pace to win the $100,000 Bolton Landing turf sprint on Wednesday.

She has won both of her starts, using a front-end strategy on a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs in June.

“It was very impressive the way she did it the first time at Churchill Downs,” jockey Javier Castellano said. “She worked a couple times on the grass and worked really good. I think they had a lot of expectations today. I’m glad she showed up. I think she was much the best in the race.”

Three scratches left the Bolton Landing with just four fillies.

Simple Surprise stalked the pace early, then grabbed the lead at the three-sixteenths pole. She drifted out a bit in the stretch, but it didn’t matter as she beat Celestial Sighting by a length.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. brought Celestial Sighting from the outside to the inside behind the heels of Simple Surprise as he was urging his filly to change leads inside the eighth pole.

“She’s doing everything right for us,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “Second start, the timing of this race was very good for her, and it looked like she liked the grass. [Laxfield Road] got out of there pretty good, but Javier gave her a chance to get out on her feet and she finished up nice to the wire.”

“Unfortunately, she tried to drift a little bit when she got to the lead and got distracted a little bit,” Castellano said. “A lot of young horses, they look around a little bit. It’s nothing against the horse, it’s just the way it unfolded. Irad Ortiz was riding next to me, and when his horse switched leads to the wrong lead and he kind of leaned on top of my horse. My horse was drifting a little bit, but she was clear.”


The 7-year-old mare Willet will run in her favorite race, the $100,000 Union Avenue, in today’s feature race after having missed it last year.

Willet won the Union Avenue in 2012 and 2013, but missed it last year while taking a crack at a much bigger prize, the Grade I Ballerina. She was third in the Ballerina by a length behind Artemis Agrotera. Willet won an allowance race early in the 2014 meet.

Trainer Charlie Baker has two in the 61⁄2-furlong Union Avenue, the front-running Atlantic’s Smile and the late-closing Make the Moment, who was second to La Verdad in the Dancing Renee at Belmont Park in June. La Verdad went on to win the Honorable Miss at Saratoga and is 4-for-4 this year.

“Make the Moment is training as good as she’s ever trained coming into a race,” Baker said. “She had a good race at Belmont, where she finished second to that good filly of Linda’s [trainer Linda Rice]. We’re hoping she runs her race. We like her chances.”


Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard kept his Saratoga winning streak alive on Wednesday.

Lune de Caro won the steeplechase in the first race, pushing his streak to 47 straight years with at least one winner at the meet.


You don’t see this too often: two full brothers will run against each other in today’s second race.

Brother O’Connell and Thurgood were both sired by Giant’s Causeway and are out of the mare Shared Gold. …

Manny Franco, who escaped serious injury in a scary spill on July 29, got back on the horse who fell that day, The Ghost Bride, in Wednesday’s eighth race. The Ghost Bride finished eighth of 10 horses. . . .

Handicappers Tom Amello and Michael “The Wizard” Kipness will be panelists for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s Countdown to the Travers Stakes and fan education seminar at 11 a.m. next Thursday. The event is free and open to the public.

Amello and Kipness will analyze the Travers field, which will be drawn on Tuesday, and answer general questions on racing and handicapping from the audience.


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