On Fabulous Fillies Day, the stakes race features a pretty fabulous rivalry.
Gitchee Goomie and Hessonite will meet for the fourth time this year in the Yaddo Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on the Mellon turf course.
The Yaddo will be the fourth on a card of 10 races all restricted to females.
Hessonite capped her 2011 season by beating Gitchee Goomie by a length and a quarter and went on to win the turf female championship as awarded through a vote conducted by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders.
This year, Hessonite has finished behind Gitchee Goomie in three meetings, including 1-2 finishes, each by a half-length, in the Mount Vernon at Belmont Park and the Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx.
The other race was against open company, as Gitchee Goomie was second to Winter Memories, with Hessonite sixth, in the Grade III Beaugay.
Gitchee Goomie, a daughter of City Zip, has had the better of the rivalry this year, but that doesn’t make trainer Dave Donk any less confident in his filly, Hessonite.
“Well, I hope that she’s [Gitchee Goomie] running into me,” he said with a grin. “She’s doing really well. She’s certainly a pleasure to have in the barn. It’s just two really good fillies for one division, two standouts.
“It’ll come down to who gets the best trip. I know Ramon [Dominguez] has a lot of confidence in my filly. I think they’re pretty evenly matched, and, obviously, they have the same kind of style.”
Hessonite, the 8-5 second choice on the morning line behind Gitchee Goomie at 7-5, will break from the No. 5 post, and her chief rival has the hedge in the seven-horse field.
“Oddly enough, for a short field, there is quite a bit of speed,” Donk said. “I’ve run well off a slow pace, so I’m pretty fortunate, I’m not too concerned about that. But . . . there is quite a bit of pace.”
Donk’s only concern is if it rains hard enough to take the Yaddo off the Mellon onto the main track, but a soft turf would be fine. Hessonite won the Irish Linnet on a yielding course on July 27.
“I’d rather be outside. It’s better to have everybody on your inside,” Donk said. “It gives Ramon a little better opportunity, if he’s outside of, especially Gitchee Goomie, but anything off and out into the first turn is a good spot.”
SHEPPARD GETS FIRST
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard won his first race of the meet to extend his streak of having at least one at Saratoga each year stretching back to 1967.
His hurdler History Boy won the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice in the second race of the day.
History Boy was a few lengths back from pace-setter Lake Placid throughout. Cornhusker was just a length and a half back much of the 23⁄8 miles over the fences. Cornhusker made his move between the two backstretch jumps the final time across that turf, passing Lake Placid over the second one. Cornhusker made his move at the same time and was past Lake Placid exiting the turn and challenging Cornhusker approaching the final jump.
Landing after that final jump, Cornhusker went down to his knees, but jockey Kieran Norris stayed aboard and the horse was back up quickly. It was not quick enough to retain the lead, though, and Cornhusker went on to win easily.
A STEP CLOSER
Chad Brown’s high-class filly Awesome Feather worked four furlongs of the Oklahoma’s dirt track, covering it in 49.12, sixth fastest of 23. Awesome Feather is 9-for-9 in her career, last winning the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff on Jan. 28. The Thursday work is a step closer to weekend workouts, which Brown said he was considering in preparation for some future stakes.
Also working that distance and track toward an appearance in the Grade I $500,000 Forego on Sept. 1 was Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito’s Jackson Bend, covering it in 49.33, eighth fastest. The bullet was fired by North Freeway in 48.33. Jackson Bend was fourth in the Grade III James Marvin here on opening day, and North Freeway’s last race was a sixth-place finish in an 11⁄8-mile allowance optional claimer here July 26 for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
HERE AND THERE
Nonios, runner-up in the Haskell to Paynter, will likely arrive Tuesday for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He and the other runners in the Grade I $1 million Travers must be at the track by Wednesday.