SARATOGA SPRINGS — Trainer Chad Brown swept the two stakes races, and swept the races 7-9 Pick 3 in the process on Friday.
Viadera won the De La Rose on the turf, and Indian Pride outdueled Blamed in the Shine Again, bookending a victory by the Brown-trained Lady Lawyer in the eighth for three straight victories.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Indian Pride and Blamed were in tight quarters for most of the stretch, before Indian Pride pulled away to win by a half-length.
“Everything is coming together really well,” Brown said. “We’re off to a nice start, and the horses are running well. Once again, another great ride by Javier. It’s a jocks room loaded with talent, and thankfully we have several of these guys that ride horses for us.
“And what about the filly — the heart she showed. Most horses would give up, and I think we really should give all the credit to her.”
“I really like the way she fought for me today,” Castellano said. “She dictated the pace, and then there was pressure to the inside, and when Blamed went after her in the stretch and buried her a little bit into the rail, she never gave up. She kept fighting all the way to the end to win the race. She showed me a lot of class and a lot of heart, too.”
Brown had four entered in the De La Rose, and although Blowout scratched, he still completed the exacta with Viadera, who was a neck ahead of stablemate Noor Sahara at the wire.
Viadera was coming off a distant fourth to one of Brown’s stars, Newspaperofrecord, in the Intercontinental at Belmont. She raced in Ireland until last September and didn’t get her first start in North America, the Intercontinental, until June 6.
“It’s been frustrating,” Brown said. “She’s been ready to run for months now, and with cancellations and such, we had to just sprint her the first time. She got a race under her belt, but she trained much sharper the second time out, and she showed that leaving the gate.
“She kind of lost herself back in the field in her last race. We expected her to get better position this time. I thought [jockey] Joel [Rosario] did a great job. The runner-up ran terrific, too. I was sorry there had to be a horse to lose. They both ran winning races there. Viadera just had a little cleaner trip.”
A six-horse field will contest the first Grade I stakes of the meet in Saturday’s Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, some of whom may shoot for the Alabama out of this race.
Tonalist’s Shape is the slight favorite, at 9-5, with graded stakes success on her resume in the Forward Gal and Davona Dale at Gulfstream Park.
Her only career loss in seven starts was a seventh to Swiss Skydiver, by far the leader of the division, in the Grade II Gulfstream Oaks on March 28.
Tonalist’s Shape rebounded from that to win the Hollywood Wildcat at Gulfstream on May 15.
She’ll stretch out to a mile and an eighth for the first time, as will her five rivals.
“We know we have a really nice filly, but we have steep competition with some of the other fillies in this category,” trainer Saffie Joseph said. “We’re hoping to find even more improvement.
“On pedigree, it tells you she is 100% about stamina, but you never truly know until they do it.”
The Bill Mott-trained Paris Lights is 2-1 while making her stakes debut off two wins at Churchill Downs by a combined 11 lengths.
There’s an interesting matchup in the undercard stakes, the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame for 3-year-olds on the turf, between Decorated Invader and Gufo, both trained by Christophe Clement.
Gufo sports a longer current winning streak, four races that include the Grade III Kent at Delaware Park on July 4, but Decorated Invader, who broke his maiden at Saratoga last year, has finished worse than second just once in his career, and it was a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
He’s the even-money favorite off wins in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park and the Grade II Pennine Ridge on Belmont Stakes Day June 20.
“The challenge is when you have a horse that’s a standout in a short field, there’s going to be a target on his back,” West Point Thoroughbreds managing partner Terry Finley said. “The break and the first eighth of a mile will be important.
“It’s very good to have the option to be a closer, but we have seen time and time again where you have the best horse in the race, and they [the pacesetters] don’t come back.”
The most likely horse to fill that pacesetter role is 10-1 Get Smokin.
He hasn’t won since breaking his maiden at Belmont in September, but has maintained a front-running style through a steady diet of mostly stakes races, including a third to Decorated Invader by two lengths in the Cutler Bay.
Gufo hasn’t won by eye-popping margins — less than a combined three lengths in his four-race winning streak — but has made steady progress every step of the way from maiden to graded stakes winner.
On the first day that owners were allowed on the grounds, 32 people took advantage of the new policy and attended the races.
A limit of eight owners, licensed by the New York State Gaming Association, are permitted to be on track on days in which their horse is running. …
Peter Pan winner Country Grammer will target the Travers on Aug. 8, something Brown suggested on Thursday and was addressed again by owner Paul Pompa Jr. on Friday.
“If he comes back well, the Travers would be the logical spot,” Pompa told the New York Racing Association.It’s coming back a little soon, but so far, so good. We always have liked this horse, but COVID-19 situation has created gaps, just due to lack of racing.
“Chad always liked him, but he never trained well at Belmont for some reason. We knew he would appreciate going two turns. Should we go to the Travers, we think the extra eighth of a mile is to his advantage.”