SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Qatar Racing, Marc Detampel and Madaket Stables’ Caravel will vie for a repeat victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Caress for older fillies and mares sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Brad Cox, Caravel will attempt to become the second horse to win two editions of the Caress and the first to do so with graded status. Miss Ella won consecutive runnings as a black type stake in 2016-17 for trainer Graham Motion.
Caravel arrives from a last-out pacesetting victory in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 10 at Belmont Park over firm going. She led by a narrow advantage throughout the six furlongs under Tyler Gaffalione before responding to urging and widening her lead to one length at the wire in a final time of 1:07.59.
“I think she showed her class at Belmont and she’s continued to do well,” said Cox. “She had a good run with her previous connections and we’re hoping she can duplicate her effort.”
The 5-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast began her career under the care of trainer Elizabeth Merryman, who conditioned her to her victory in the Caress last year. Caravel began her career in 2020 with a trio of victories in Pennsylvania, including Presque Isle Downs’ Lady Erie over synthetic, a surface she has gone a perfect 3-for-3 over. She went on to capture the The Very One at Pimlico Race Course and the Goldwood at Monmouth en route to the Caress last summer.
After securing her first graded triumph in the Caress, Bobby Flay purchased a majority interest in Caravel and transferred her to Graham Motion to close out the rest of her 4-year-old season. She earned a Grade 1 placing when third in the Highlander at Woodbine before finishing off-the-board in the Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx Racing and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
After her start in the Breeders’ Cup, Caravel was purchased by her current owners in November for $500,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Fall Mixed Sale and sent to Cox. She made a victorious seasonal debut in March in the Queen at Turfway Park for her first start for her new connections.
“She’s doing really well and she’s set up for a good race. We picked her up in November and we gave her some time off,” said Cox. “She’s been pretty straightforward, and she loves to train. We’ve been excited about her since we got her. We ran her on the synthetic at Turfway just to get a run under her belt and it worked out well.”
Caravel’s only loss in three starts for Cox was a sixth-place finish against males in the Grade 2 Turf Sprint in May at Churchill Downs, an effort Cox said was admirable.
“She didn’t fair very well against the boys at Churchill – I think it was more due to the course and being stuck down inside. It was actually really good, it was more just where she was on the course that day,” said Cox. “But she obviously liked the Belmont turf course and up here, so hopefully we keep it going. She’s cool.”
Caravel will be piloted by Gaffalione from post 1.
Live Oak Plantation’s Souper Sensational will make her second start over the turf for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse after finishing a game second to Boardroom in the Grade 2 Royal North last out on June 4 at Woodbine off an eight-month layoff.
Out of the Indian Charlie mare Kateri, Souper Sensational’s second dam, Sue’s Good News, also produced multiple stakes-winning turf sprinter Bulletin, who took the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint in 2018. Casse said he considered Souper Sensational’s accomplished turf relatives when deciding on the surface switch.
“We thought with her pedigree that she’d like the grass, and we were looking for a race to come back in,” Casse said of the Royal North. “Grass tends to be a little kinder to them, especially off the layoff. She ran well, so I think she’ll run well in the Caress.”
The Curlin chestnut has won on dual surfaces, beginning her career with a pair of wins in 2020 over the Woodbine all-weather that included a four-length romp in the seven-furlong Glorious Song. She switched to dirt and picked up placings as a sophomore in the Silverbulletday and Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra before taking the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Belmont and finishing second in the Grade 1 Test and Grade 2 Prioress at the Spa.
While Souper Sensational showed early speed in her latest outing, she also has shown ability to rate when she closed from fifth-of-6 for her win in the Victory Ride. She will cut back a full furlong from the Royal North and run the shortest distance of her career, though she has shown proficiency at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
Casse said Souper Sensational’s versatility will be key to her success on Saturday.
“The distance is a little bit of a concern. She won’t make the lead and there’s a fair amount of speed,” Casse said. “The best race she ever ran, she came from last, so she’ll have to close here to be competitive. She runs well everywhere and she’s an extremely talented filly.”
Dylan Davis has the call from post 8.
The lightly-raced Bout Time enters the Caress in great form for trainer Cherie DeVaux, who has already collected a stakes victory at the Saratoga meeting with Tarabi in the Wilton on Opening Day. Bout Time, a 4-year-old Not This Time chestnut, will look to make the grade after blitzing to victory in the Goodwood on June 25 at Monmouth Park.
Owned by Belladonna Racing, Bout Time put in a strong performance in the Goodwood when she stalked the pace under Angel Rodriguez and showed an impressive turn-of-foot down the lane to come home in a blistering final time of 1:01.01 for the 5 1/2 furlongs and secure the win by 2 1/4 lengths.
All but one of Bout Time’s starts have been over the grass, her lone dirt start a debut seventh in an off-the-turf maiden last May at Churchill Downs over a wet-fast sealed main track. She improved dramatically on the grass for the first time with a 5 1/2-length score at second asking before showing some greenness and losing by a head in her first start against winners on March 24 at Fair Grounds Race Course.
“She came out of the race at Monmouth in good order. She hasn’t done anything wrong since we’ve gotten her on the grass sprinting,” said DeVaux. “In her second start on the grass, she got a little green, and it was a bit disappointing because she acted like she was going to move forward from her impressive maiden win. She eventually did, but she showed some signs of being a lightly-raced horse. She’s continued to progress since she went on turf.”
Bout Time will be ridden from post 4 by Luis Saez.
The New York-bred Robin Sparkles was last seen finishing a good third behind Bout Time in the Goodwood and was third behind Caravel in this event last year for trainer Bruce Brown and owner Michael Schrader. She made a victorious return from a seven-month layoff with a one-length score in an off-the-turf rendition of the Politely on May 21 at Monmouth.
A daughter of Elusive Quality, Robin Sparkles has put together a consistent campaign that includes two stakes victories and a record of 15-8-2-3 with earnings of $420,668. She will be piloted from post 6 by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
Rounding out the field are Miss J McKay [post 2, Irad Ortiz, Jr.], Star Devine [post 3, John Velazquez], Tobys Heart [post 5, Ricardo Santana, Jr.], Lady Edith [post 7, Trevor McCarthy], Kept Waiting [post 9, Kendrick Carmouche] and Fouette [post 10, Jose Lezcano].
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Photo: Caravel (Ryan Thompson)