Cat’s Claw, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, came off the also-eligible list Sunday and pulled off an upset in the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes.
The 4-year-old Dynaformer filly rallied to win the 1 1⁄2-mile run for fillies and mares 3 and up, claiming her third straight victory and first stakes score in her Saratoga debut.
Cushion led the strung-out field through fractions of :24.07 and :47.47 in the first half-mile. The next two quarter-mile splits were a little slower at :24.34 and :24.50, but it was still a faster pace than Cushion could maintain, and the Christophe Clement trainee faded quickly in the final few furlongs.
Along the backstretch, Gulsary made a strong run up the rail approaching the final turn, but was boxed in when she reached Cushion as the leaders backed up to the field.
Entering the turn, Cat's Claw was last of 12, but she stormed between horses under jockey Cornelio Velasquez and passed her final three rivals — Gulsary, English Class and Viva Rafaela — in the final furlong.
“I think she is definitely a superior distance horse,” said Sheppard. “She’s acted that way. Since we’ve gotten to know her and learn a little bit about her, it just seems like she’ll gallop all day.
“She ran in the long race [a 1 1⁄2-mile turf allowance on June 22] at Belmont. She had broken her maiden and she came back and won nicely in the non-winners of two. But to be honest, those long, marathon races down there don’t have really strong competition. This is a huge step up and none of us were really sure how she’d handle it. Obviously, she came through and Cornelio [Velasquez] gave her a great trip. It worked out perfect.”
Cat's Claw returned $28.40, $12.20 and $7.00 in the win. Viva Rafaela was 11⁄4 lengths back and paid $8.60 and $6.90, while third-place English Class paid $5.90 to show.
Princess gets blinkers
Princess of Sylmar had a slightly different look about her when she worked out Saturday.
Owned by Schenectady native Ed Stanco, Princess of Sylmar breezed four furlongs on the main track in company with stablemate Storm while in blinkers and was clocked in :47.18, second-fastest of 85 at that distance.
“I thought it was an excellent work, 47 and change, galloped out great,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
“It's been in the back of my mind for a while. I just felt like her last two races, she was perhaps not as focused as we needed her to be. Based on what I saw in the breeze, she was very focused.”
Her last two races were runner-up efforts in Grade I's — the Ogden Phipps and Delaware Handicap.
Pletcher said the blinkers are French cup blinkers, which feature less cup, “just enough to get her focused.”
He plans to run her in blinkers in her next start, the Grade I Personal Ensign on Aug. 22 at Saratoga.
With seven wins in 27 starts this meet, Graham Motion remains tied with Mechanicville's Chad Brown for second in the training race. Brown is 7-for-34.
Motion was 3-for-34 last year at Saratoga. This year, he has a pair of stakes wins — Grade II Lake George with Daring Dancer, Coronation Cup with Stars Above Me.
Jess's Dream, the 2-year-old son of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra — both winners of Horse of the Year, Curlin in 2007 and 2008, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 — arrived at the barn of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on Sunday morning.
McLaughlin plans to gallop the colt on the main track this morning at 9:20.
“We'll get him started [today], show him a new place, canter,” McLaughlin said. “He could race this fall. He's been working in Florida at the farm.”
Expectations are high for the colt with high breeding. The pairing of the two Horses of the Year was literally a dream, one had by Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson before he died in April 2011.
“I think the nice thing is Stonestreet is very knowledgeable, sharp people, all of them involved, from [owner] Barbara [Banke] on down,” McLaughlin said. “They understand the game. Sure, there's a lot of hype, and there should be — two horses of the year being mated. We're all hopeful, but we're just getting started.”
The first “Jockey Legends Day” will take place Saturday when 16 riders gather to sign autographs in return for a $10 donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Between them, there are 10 Hall of Famers, two Triple Crown winners, 28 Saratoga Race Course meet titles, 75,867 wins, more than $1.86 billion in purse winnings, 13 Eclipse Awards and 35 individual Triple Crown race wins.
Jockeys expected to be in attendance include Angel Cordero Jr., Ramond Dominguez, Richard Migliore, Ron Turcotte, Jean Cruguet, Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Maple, Chris McCarron, Randy Romero, Jean-Luc Samyn, Nick Santagata, Robbie Davis, Jose Santos, Manny Ycaza, Jacinto Vasquez and Jorge Velasquez.
Trainer’s wife dies
Elisabeth Jerkens, a longtime thoroughbred owner and breeder who was married to Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens since 1987, died Sunday in South Florida at the age of 86.
The cause of death was heart failure, according to the New York Racing Association.
Eilsabeth Jerkens campaigned her horses as Hardwicke Stables. Among her homebreds were the stakes- winning filly Becky’s Flute, and multiple stakes winner Spite the Devil.
HERE AND THERE
Tapiture improved to 3-1-0 from six starts this year, all graded stakes, by winning the Grade II West Virginia Derby on Saturday at Mountaineer, the 3-year-old Tapit colt's first Grade II win.
Under jockey Rosie Napravnik, Tapiture sat a couple of lengths off the pace set by Vicar's in Trouble until the stretch of the 1 1⁄8-mile race, then came three deep to pass the pacesetter and get a nose in front of runner-up Candy Boy.
AROUND THE TRACK
Mr Speaker, a Grade I winner on grass, is still being considered for the $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 23. He breezed for trainer Shug McGaughey on Saturday, going five furlongs in :59.76, second-fastest of 46 at that distance. His previous two workouts were half-mile breezes in :50.70 on the Oklahoma training track and :48.88 on the main track.