Versatile Antoinette Leads Saratoga Oaks From Start To Finish

Godolphin Stable’s Antoinette started her sophomore campaign by consistently earning black type against stakes company, notching four consecutive third-place finishes running on both grass and dirt. Returning to turf, the Hard Spun filly finally broke through, leading a seven-horse field through every point of call and fending off Stunning Sky’s late bid to capture the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The second running of the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks, which this year serves as the first leg of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Triple series for the top 3-year-old fillies on grass, marked the second start of the meet for Antoinette, who ran behind Crystal Ball and winner Paris Lights in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks over the main track on July 18 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

Switching surfaces again, Antoinette broke sharp from post 3 under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who tracked down 3-2 favorite Enola Gay to secure the lead, going an opening quarter-mile in 23.94 seconds, the half in 48.87 and three-quarters in 1:12.78 on the Mellon turf course labeled firm.

Out of the final turn, Velazquez kept Antoinette tucked inside, powering her way alongside the rail as the Mike Maker-trained Stunning Sky made a late push from the four-path, gaining ground into the final furlong. Dueling in the final sixteenth, Antoinette never relinquished the advantage, hitting the wire in 1:53.30 a half-length winner.

“There wasn’t much speed in the race,” Velazquez said. “I’d been taking this filly back every time she runs. She runs behind the horses on dirt or grass and I think she’s going to gallop and when you let her go, she doesn’t pass the horses. Today, we sent her to the lead and got her to relax and she put up a good fight. I didn’t have to take a hold of her today. She opened up on the horses, but she fought with the horses. I wasn’t worried about the distance at all, I was worried about her putting her mind on running.”

Off at 5-1, Antoinette returned $12 on a $2 win wager. The Kentucky homebred improved her career earnings to $483,750.

“I think we [Velazquez] both looked at the same racing form and it looked like we would be laying first or second,” Mott said. “He decided he was going to let her lay up close. Last time, he had been tucked in behind horses and tipped her out and she didn’t really respond for him. With the lack of speed in this race, we thought just let her do what she’s comfortable doing.”

Her second stakes victory was the reward for four hard-trying efforts, starting with back-to-back third-place efforts in 1 1/16-mile dirt routes in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March and the Gardenia in May at Oaklawn Park. In her first stakes start on turf, she again hit the board when third in the one-mile Grade 3 Wonder Again on Belmont Stakes Day, June 20, before wheeling back to compete in the prestigious 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks last month. Following her win, Mott said he keep her options open.

“She ran pretty well today and that was a nice purse. Maybe there’s another one of those somewhere for us,” Mott said. “The way she ran today, I’d say maybe we run on turf but the good thing about her is she can do either.”

Antoinette won the one-mile off-the-turf Tepin in December at the Big A to close her juvenile campaign, with her Saratoga Oaks victory giving her stakes scores on two surfaces.

Stunning Sky, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Lake Placid on July 19 at the Spa, again ran second, finishing 2 ½ lengths clear of Key Biscayne.

“She ran good. She got beat by a nice filly,” said Stunning Sky jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. “I had a beautiful trip, so I can’t complain. We were just second-best today.”

Speaktomeofsummer, Enola Gay, Ricetta and Queens Embrace completed the order of finish.

Live racing resumes Wednesday at Saratoga with a nine-race card that includes the $85,000 Bolton Landing for juvenile fillies going 5 ½ furlongs on turf in Race 8 at 4:46 p.m. First post is 12:50 p.m with the Michael G. Walsh steeplechase.

The post Versatile Antoinette Leads Saratoga Oaks From Start To Finish appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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