It was deja DQ all over again.
For the second day in a row, trainer Todd Pletcher won a graded stakes race at Saratoga Race Course by disqualification.
This time, at least, his horse, Curalina, was directly affected by the action that led to the change in order of finish by the stewards.
Curalina and jockey John Velazquez got just about nose-to-nose with I’m a Chatterbox and Florent Geroux in deep stretch of the Coaching Club Oaks when I’m a Chatterbox shuffled to her right, despite the right-handed stick by Geroux, and made contact two strides from the wire. She finished inches ahead of Curalina, but was taken down for interference, giving Pletcher’s filly the victory in the $300,000 Grade I race.
When the announcement was made, Pletcher’s eyes widened as if to say, “Well, OK,” then he accepted a gracious handshake from Larry Jones, I’m a Chatterbox’s trainer.
“Yeah, it takes some of the enjoyment out of it,” Pletcher said, of winning by DQ. “Ideally, you’d like to cross the wire first and have no doubts about it.”
On Saturday, the Pletcher-trained Uncle Vinny closed straight down the middle of the track to finish second in the Sanford Stakes and was awarded first on the DQ of Magna Light for his zigzagging that bothered another horse, Percolator, on the inside.
“After seeing that she [Curalina] came back one jump after the wire and put her nose in front, I feel a little less apologetic about this one,” Pletcher said.
“Yesterday [Saturday], we weren’t bothered. We were the beneficiary of someone else being bothered.”
Curalina and I’m a Chatterbox were in such tight quarters as Curalina powered up on the outside that it appeared the jockeys may have brushed each other with their sticks a a few times.
Geroux tried to keep I’m a Chatterbox straight with the right hand, but she shifted out anyway, just as Curalina was coming abreast and trying to get by.
Jones said I’m a Chatterbox may even have lost a little action when she jumped over the tire tracks from the starting gate just before the wire.
“The jock rode a great race, he didn’t do anything to cause it,” he said.
“She was very game all the way to the end, then we got unlucky with the disqualification,” Geroux said.
Velazquez said he had enough momentum to get by I’m a Chatterbox, but that filly’s bump knocked Curalina off stride just enough that she changed to her left lead.
“I knew two jumps before the wire, I was going to get him,” he said. “She lost her balance, I lost my balance. I had to get back on her and just missed it. No doubt in my mind, I was going to get her.”
Curalina, a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, has won four straight for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
In the CCA Oaks, she stretched out from her mile win in the Acorn at Belmont Park to a mile and an eighth.
Pletcher sees no reason why the mile and a quarter of the Aug. 22 Alabama would be any kind of impediment.
“I don’t think she has any distance limitations,” he said.
There has been a CCA Oaks-Alabama sweep in each of the last three years.
Questing won both in 2012, and Pletcher swept in 2013 with Princess of Sylmar and in 2014 with Stopchargingmaria.