Who goes on vacation, then is dying to get back to work?
Apparently at least one horse does, and that’s Dream Tree, unraced since February due to some minor issues, but clearly the best Sunday in winning the Grade II Prioress at Saratoga Race Course.
She remained undefeated in five starts by rolling to a 4 1/4-length victory over Mia Mischief.
Dream Tree (Mike Smith) wins the Prioress to stay undefeated in 5 starts pic.twitter.com/0g3SnBT3ZD— Mike MacAdam (@Mike_MacAdam) September 2, 2018
“Man, she brought it today,” trainer Bob Baffert told the New York Racing Association in a phone interview from California. “I’m just glad she shipped well and is still undefeated. That freshening really helped her.”
Dream Tree built an undefeated record from four starts out west that included the Grade I Starlet in December as a 2-year-old. She won the Grade II Las Virgenes at Santa Anita Park in her 2018 debut, but that was six months ago.
Baffert had considered finding a race at Del Mar in California, but took a swing at something bigger -- and a risk -- by sending her cross-country to Saratoga.
“We decided to give her a shot because she was doing so well,” Baffert said.
“Sometimes horses just need time,” said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who accompanied Dream Tree to New York. “That was the only unknown factor coming into the race. We’ve been off since February. But Bob’s known for getting horses ready on the first time out. We had to do it on the ship, but we did it.
“We always want to win. Did she need to win, no. Just the main thing is getting a race into her and see where we’re at. Going into this race, I was pretty confident, because she is undefeated.”
That doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing before the race.
Dream Tree was feisty in the paddock and post parade, but jockey Mike Smith said that was all behind her once the race started.
She settled behind Mia Mischief in second place early and took over with authority once they got inside the eighth pole.
“Once Mike calmed her down, took her down the backside off by herself, she settled in,” Barnes said. “I think that’s just from the fact of not racing in so long.”
“I was expecting her to be that sharp early,” Smith said. “She was sharp out of the gate over there the other morning, and she hadn’t run in awhile. She was pretty aggressive in the post parade, so she gets herself kind of wound up.
“But the best part of the race is when the doors open. That’s when she relaxes and everything comes naturally to her. She has a natural high cruising speed, and Bob had her ready today. That’s why he decided to ship her down here. He told me, ‘I’ve got her right.’”
Drayden Van Dyke was aboard for Dream Tree’s first four starts, but he’s neck-and-neck with Flavien Prat for the meet title at Del Mar.
Baffert sent his frequent designated driver Smith to New York for the Prioress. The Hall of Famer had been on Dream Tree for a morning breeze.
“She gave me goosebumps [Sunday], to be honest,” Smith said. “I never rode her in the afternoon, but I was fortunate to get on her one morning, so I knew she was talented, but I didn’t realize she was this talented.
“If you go back and look at some of the fillies she beat some really, really good fillies. The only thing that worried us a little bit maybe was the long layoff, but she handled that well within herself.”