SARATOGA SPRINGS — Twice beaten by Clairiere this year, Malathaat emerged triumphant from the $600,000 Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Sent off at just under 2-1 odds as the favorite, Clairiere acted up in the starting gate and broke slowly, spotting the field nearly a dozen lengths. Though the four-year-old daughter of Curlin tends to come from well off the pace, and jockey Joel Rosario was able to coax her in the late stages of the race into contact with the other four horses, she was never a factor, finishing last.
“She jumped up a couple of times [in the gate], but she was OK,” said Rosario. “She took a long time today to find her stride. It was not her day, I guess.”
At the Travers post-race press conference two hours after the Personal Ensign was run, trainer Steve Asmussen said Clairiere got banged up in the starting gate.
“She’s cooling out well,” he said. “She was a little fractious in the gate, cut her tongue a bit, but she’s cooling out well and walking well.”
The pace was set, as expected, by Letruska, winner of this race last year. Through moderate early fractions of 23.99 and 48.21, she was trailed closely by Search Results up the backstretch of the nine-furlong race, followed by longshot Crazy Beautiful several lengths behind and Malathaat a length or two back in fourth.
Letruska lengthened her lead heading into the final turn, only to have Search Results mount a serious challenge at the quarter pole, the two of them running stride for stride as they hit the eighth pole.
But having saved ground under John Velazquez throughout the race, Malathaat tipped wide coming into the stretch, and while Search Results and Letruska dueled with each other, Malathaat ran past them inside the sixteenth pole to win by a half-length. She paid $8.40 to win for a $2 bet.
Search Results held on for second, with Letruska two lengths back in third. Crazy Beautiful was fourth, followed by Clairiere.
“We were able to save all the ground,” said Velazquez, “and when I put her to the outside, she got into a really good rhythm and does what she normally does. At the eighth pole, I knew that she was going to run them down.”
“I was glad that Search Results was keeping some pace [with Letruska],” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “One of my concerns going in was the potential to not be a good pace set-up [for Malathaat].
Following the Shuvee Stakes on July 24, trainer Todd Pletcher expressed concern about Malathaat’s demeanor in the paddock, saying that she was acting uncharacteristically irritated. Before the Personal Ensign, he had no such worries.
“She can be a hard read,” said Pletcher of the 4-year-old that was affected by the heat last out. “She’s a quiet, subdued filly, anyway, and she wasn’t showing a lot of spark or energy today, but she wasn’t the same as las time. Last time, she was doing some things she never does, and I was happy to see the weather a little bit cooler today. She was all class in the paddock.”
Like Clairiere, Malathaat is by Curlin. She’s out of the multiple graded stakes winning mare Dreaming of Julia, who back in 2012 broke her maiden at Saratoga on debut, winning by 10 1/2 lengths. Malathaat was bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, the owners of Clairiere, and she is owned by Shadwell Stable, who paid $1.05 million for her at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale.
With eight wins from 12 lifetime races, Malathaat has earned just under $2.4 million. She’s never finished worse than third.