SARATOGA SPRINGS — Antoinette must have been getting tired of finishing third.
Trainer Bill Mott certainly was tired of finishing second.
The versatile Godolphin 3-year-old filly had finished third in all four of her 2020 starts, most recently the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course, but a switch back to the turf was a winning move, as she went gate-to-wire in the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on Sunday.
Mott, meanwhile, swept the late double by saddling Antoinette to victory in the Oaks and Southern Bridge in the 10th after racking up 17 second-place finishes from 62 starters heading into the Saratoga Oaks.
“Making up for lost time,” he said with a chuckle after the 10th race.
In eight lifetime starts, Antoinette has run on the turf four times and on the dirt four times, and she actually has enough qualifying points to get in the starting gate for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, but Mott said she won’t be considered for that.
In fact, he’s not sure what to do with her next, but he does know that there will be many options.
“She’s effective at a mile, she’s effective at the distance of today’s race. Dirt or turf, she’s just a very versatile filly,” he said. “She’s really one that you’ve got to look at every race and weigh the competition and see where you have your best chance.”
That’s what he and Godolphin racing manager Jimmy Bell did leading up to Saturday’s Alabama on the dirt, and the presence of Swiss Skydiver took much of the appeal away from the Alabama.
A turf race at a mile and three-sixteenths for the winner’s share of a half-million-dollar purse the following day was not a bad alternative.
Breaking from the No. 3 post under John Velazquez, Antoinette got to the front and was able to get away with a first half-mile in 48.87.
Stunning Sky moved up from fourth place to challenge her in the stretch, but Antoinette was able to finish it off to win by a half-length.
“There wasn’t much speed in the race. I’d been taking this filly back every time she runs,” Velazquez said. “She runs behind the horses on dirt or grass and I think she’s going to gallop, and when you let her go, she doesn’t pass the horses. Today, we sent her to the lead and got her to relax and she put up a good fight. I didn’t have to take a hold of her today.
“She opened up on the horses, but she fought with the horses. I wasn’t worried about the distance at all, I was worried about her putting her mind on running.”
“I think we both looked at the same racing form,” Mott said. “It looked like we’d be laying first or second. He just decided he was going to let her lay up close, and that’s what he elected to do. Last time [in the CCA Oaks on July 18], he was tucked in behind horses and tipped her out and she didn’t really respond. With the lack of speed in this race, let her just do what she’s comfortable with.
“She ran pretty nice today, and that was a nice purse. I don’t know if there’s another one of those somewhere for us. I’d say the way she ran today, maybe we’d run her on turf. But the good thing about her is she can do either.”
“This was almost kind of an audible. We looked at the Alabama. I spoke with Jimmy Bell, and we were already Grade I placed. Then the Alabama was coming up a pretty good race, and you’re going against a filly who’s the top one or two in the country. So we thought, ‘Oh, why not try this.'”
‘SKYDIVER’ EATS UP
Swiss Skydiver spent her last full day in Saratoga grazing on grass and greeting visitors to Kenny McPeek’s barn Sunday morning after winning the Grade I Alabama by 3 1/2 lengths on Saturday.
She’s scheduled to fly back to Louisville on Monday to continue preparations for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, after which McPeek said she would be considered for the Preakness on Oct. 3.
“She’s happy and playing with all the visitors coming by and was happy to go out and eat some grass,” assistant trainer Britt Stoddard told the New York Racing Association. “She cleaned her feed tub up like she always does. She’s an eating machine.
“I got to know her in Kentucky by helping out in the barn, but up here I do everything for her. She’s classy, she’s kind and she has kind of a sense of humor. She’s just really easy to be around.”
Lady C was euthanized after being pulled up on the turn during the running of the third race, at six furlongs on the main track.
According to the New York State Gaming Commission Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database, Lady C, a 4-year-old filly trained by Tom Amoss, suffered a left hind injury. Jockey David Cohen pulled her up, and she was vanned off.
It was the first equine racing death of the meet.
There have been three deaths from training incidents since the Oklahoma training track opened in early June.
Cloud was euthanized on June 18 after being taken to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital with an injury to the left front leg suffered on the training track.
Apollon suffered a cardiovascular collapse on July 24, and Brag On Me was euthanized on Aug. 11 with a broken tibia. Both occurred on the main track.
Jockey Benjamin Hernandez was taken to first aid after his mount in the sixth race, John Want Revenge, reared in the gate and was scratched.
According to NYRA, Hernandez suffered a soft tissue injury when his leg got pinched in the gate, but he expects to ride on Wednesday.
OLD FRIENDS OPEN HOUSE
Old Friends at Cabin Creek will host an open house and adoption event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Saturday that will include two equine ambassadors from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s herd.
Visitors will get a chance to learn about the work of aftercare organizations and meet the retirees, including the TRF’s Uptown Joe and Bold Mon.
The Old Friends crew includes Commentator, Zippy Chippy, Like Now and many others.
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