SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Four-time Eclipse Award winner and meet-leading trainer Chad Brown will send out stakes winners Dolce Zel and Eminent Victor in pursuit of his sixth victory in Friday’s 27th running of the Grade 3, $175,000 Lake George at Saratoga Race Course.
Brown has captured the last three editions of the one mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies, including with 2019 winner Regal Glory, who earned her first graded stakes victory on the path to winning six more graded stakes races, four of which were Grade 1s.
Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Robert V. LaPenta’s Dolce Zel is the lone graded stakes winner in the field, having won the Grade 3 Florida Oaks on March 12 at Tampa Bay Downs in her North American debut and first start for Brown.
The daughter of Zelzal commenced her career in her native France and won second time out at Longchamp one start before capturing the Florida Oaks. She earned additional graded stakes black type in her next two starts when a respective second and third in the Appalachian at Keeneland and the last out Edgewood at Churchill Downs, both Grade 2 races.
“I let her catch her breath a little bit after her race at Churchill,” Brown said. “She had done a lot of training and running all winter, and she ran well down at Tampa, so I let her catch her breath. She’s going to be a little fresh in this race, so we’ll see. I think the distance will suit her at a mile.”
Distance was also a factor in entering Michael Dubb and The Elkstone Group’s Eminent Victor, who exits a triumph in the one-mile Wild Applause at Belmont Park, where she defeated dual-winning stable mate Oakhurst and graded stakes-placed Breeze Easy.
Privately purchased following a victorious debut last summer at Arlington Park, the daughter of Mr. Z earned Grade 1 black type in her first start for Brown when a late-closing third in Woodbine’s Natalma.
Following her Wild Applause coup, Brown said she would be under consideration for the 1 3/16-mile Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational on August 7. He ultimately decided to keep Eminent Victor at one mile for the time being, but said she could stretch out in the fall for Keeneland’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on October 15.
“She’s training great, but I don’t feel entirely comfortable moving her up three-sixteenths of a mile quite yet,” Brown said. “She only ran one time this year. I’ll try to stretch her out a little later in the year. I think she’s an interesting horse later on in the year to possibly get to the Queen Elizabeth at a mile and an eighth if we can get there. I’m building her up to that distance rather than just throwing her out too far.”
Dolce Zel will emerge from post 5 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., while Eminent Victor will exit post 6 under Flavien Prat.
Emerging off an eight-month hiatus is stakes-winner Koala Princess, who last raced when seventh as the lukewarm favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar.
Owned by breeders Runnymede Farm and Peter Callahan in partnership with Chris Zinkhan and John C. Oxley, Koala Princess captured the Ainsworth at Kentucky Downs en route to her Breeders’ Cup effort. A victory would make Koala Princess the sixth horse to win their next start exiting the Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Delacour expressed no concern with the long time in between races.
She worked a bullet half-mile in 49 seconds flat from the gate at Fair Hill Training Center on Thursday.
“I think she’ll be fine. Last year when she ran, she was ready to fire right away. She’s the kind of filly that was very genuine in the mornings,” Delacour said. “She’s not the kind of filly that needs a race, I think she can run well right away. I’ve been very happy with what she’s done in the morning. Her last three breezes were pretty impressive. That’s what it takes to run races like that and I’ve been pretty happy with what she’s done.”
Delacour said his filly should relish the Lake George distance.
“I like coming back to a mile and we’ll take it from there. She’s breezed every week and no problem so far,” Delacour said.
Trevor McCarthy will pick up the mount from post 4.
Andrew Rosen’s British homebred Skims will attempt to make her third graded stakes effort the charm for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The bay Frankel filly enters from two third-place finishes against Grade 2 company. After finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind Spendarella in the Appalachian at Keeneland, she rounded out the trifecta over a yielding Belmont inner turf last out in the nine-furlong Wonder Again.
McGaughey said Skims will appreciate a cutback in distance.
“It will give her a little more pace and we’ll see if she can relax back there,” McGaughey said. “Not that she wasn’t before, but she was kind of fighting a bit in the longer races. We’ll see if she can’t relax back there and finish.”
McGaughey said Skims, who drilled through a bullet half-mile in 47.81 seconds on Friday over the Oklahoma turf, could use the Lake George as a springboard to the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid on August 20 at the Spa.
“She worked really well the other day and she’s coming into it well,” McGaughey said. “I think she’ll get better as we go along, too. Hopefully, she runs good there and we can come back in the Lake Placid.”
Skims captured her second lifetime start over the Aqueduct inner turf before defeating winners in a first level allowance optional claimer in February at Tampa Bay Downs.
Joel Rosario will pick up the mount aboard Skims from post 8.
Trainer Robert Falcone, Jr. will saddle Irish-bred Spirit And Glory, who made her stateside debut a victorious one in a June 16 allowance optional claimer over Belmont’s inner turf.
Owned by Falcone, Jr. in partnership with Michael Nentwig, John Rochfort, and Beast Mode Racing, Spirit And Glory sprung a 24-1 upset with a deep-closing victory in the 1 1/16-mile race, where she defeated Canisy, who came back to win on Opening Weekend at the Spa.
Breaking from the outside in the eight-horse field, the daughter of Cotai Glory shied at the start with two horses to her inside breaking outward. In last position from the start until the final stretch call, Spirit And Glory made a devastating last-to-first move to win by a half-length.
“She shows a lot more speed in the mornings,” Falcone, Jr. said. “I’ve popped her out of the gate a couple times and she’s really fast from the gate. But it was a different thing for her to go out there in the afternoon and run. We drew the outside post going a mile and a sixteenth with the temporary fence over there and she had never been there before.”
Spirit And Glory will break from the outside once more under return rider Dylan Davis.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will provide Helen Alexander and Helen K. Groves homebred Al Qahira with her first start at stakes level. The bay daughter of Cairo Prince broke her maiden when stretching out to nine furlongs for a May 4 Churchill Downs turf maiden, which she won at fifth asking.
Al Qahira finished second on debut over the Churchill Downs main track in November before finishing second to next out winners Beechnut Trophy and Spendarella over the Gulfstream Park turf.
Jose Ortiz will ride from post 3.
Completing the field are Heavenly Hellos [post 2, Abel Lezcano], who sprung a 36-1 upset in the last out Horseshoe Indianapolis on May 18, and the Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained duo of Sister Lou Ann [post 7, Javier Castellano] – winner of the Martha Washington at Gulfstream Park last out; and two-time winner Republique [post 1, John Velazquez], who makes her turf debut.
The Lake George, named after the popular neighboring town just 25 miles north of Saratoga Springs, is carded as Race 9 on Friday’s 10-race program. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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Photo: Chad Brown (NYRA/Coglianese)