SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – This spring, Stonestreet Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winner Clairiere was an underdog when facing reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat, never having finished ahead of her in four matchups last year. But this year, Clairiere has gotten the better of her familiar rival twice and will look to do so once again in Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign, a nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Clairiere arrives from a strong victory over Malathaat in the Grade 2 Shuvee on July 24 at the Spa. There, she stalked the pace set by Exotic West and put her head in front at the stretch call before pulling away to a 1 1/2-length victory. It was the second graded score of the year for Clairiere, building upon a Grade 1 triumph in the Ogden Phipps on June 11 at Belmont Park where she held off a late bid from Malathaat to post a head victory at odds of 9-2.
Along with a sublime racing resume, Clairiere boasts a regal pedigree, sired by the Asmussen-trained and Stonestreet-owned Hall of Famer Curlin, and out of multiple Grade 1-winner Cavorting, who pulled off the Ogden Phipps/Personal Ensign double in 2016 to cap her stellar career.
Asmussen said Clairiere shows the same “ability” and professionalism on the track as her sire.
“A great mind on them and both were intelligent horses that understand what all the work is for,” said Asmussen.
Clairiere has earned her way to the pinnacle of her division, racing in top company throughout last year with strong efforts in Grade 1 events in the Coaching Club American Oaks [third], the Alabama [second] and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where she finished a close fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length. Her sophomore campaign was highlighted by a breakout performance in the Grade 1 Cotillion in September at Parx Racing where she closed from five lengths off the pace to score a 2 1/2-length victory over subsequent Grade 1-winner Obligatory.
Clairiere’s abilities will be tested once again in the Personal Ensign as she faces a loaded field that includes two champions. In addition to the aforementioned Malathaat, she’ll face the reigning Champion Older Dirt Female Letruska, who was the quick pacesetter in the Ogden Phipps and faded to be a well-beaten fifth-of-5.
Asmussen said he expects Clairiere to deliver another strong performance, but acknowledged the class of her rivals.
“She’s racing royalty and she’s in great form,” Asmussen said. “She’s capable. It’s within her and she continues to get better. I expect another huge race against great mares in the Personal Ensign. Letruska and Malathaat are as good as race mares can be.”
Clairiere will exit post 3 with regular pilot Joel Rosario in the irons.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher is hopeful Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat will bounce back from a disappointing runner-up effort behind Clairiere in the Grade 2 Shuvee last out.
The day of the Shuvee was particularly hot and humid, which Pletcher blames for the dullness Malathaat showed in the paddock and while warming up for the race. She broke well under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, but settled in third-of-4 before making a mild run down the stretch and coming up 1 1/2 lengths shy.
Pletcher said he does not believe first-time blinkers were part of the issue for Malathaat and that they will stay on for the Personal Ensign.
“I don’t think she reacted well to the heat that day. That’s the first time I felt like she didn’t handle the conditions,” said Pletcher. “She was very quiet in the paddock and didn’t seem herself. Johnny commented that she was kind of lethargic in the post parade. She ran, but I don’t feel that she ran to her capabilities. Hopefully she can rebound and come with her best performance ever.”
Malathaat, another daughter of Curlin who was also bred by Stonestreet, put together a remarkable sophomore campaign that earned her Champion status, beginning with a head score in the Grade 1 Ashland in April at Keeneland. She followed with a determined neck triumph in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks over returning foe Search Results two starts before dazzling in the Grade 1 Alabama at the Spa. She closed out the year with a close third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff where she was defeated just a half-length by Marche Lorraine in a thrilling renewal.
This year, the bay filly began her campaign with a win in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare in April at Keeneland before her runner-up finishes to Clairiere in the Ogden Phipps and Shuvee. Pletcher said that Malathaat has appeared to improve physically since last year.
“I think she’s really filled out and developed very nicely this year,” Pletcher said. “She’s held her weight throughout the campaign and she seems to be a bigger, stronger version of her 3-year-old self.”
Velazquez, aboard for nine of her 11 lifetime outings, retains the mount from post 5.
St. George Stable’s five-time Grade 1-winning homebred Letruska will try to defend her title in this event as she enters from her pacesetting fifth in the Ogden Phipps. Trained by Fausto Gutierrez, the speedy Letruska was sent to the front by Jose Ortiz and set sharp fractions over the fast main track before tiring and fading to be well-beaten by Clairiere.
The Ogden Phipps performance was an outlier for Letruska, who has shown brilliance since coming to America from Mexico in 2019. A daughter of Super Saver, Letruska picked up her first graded score in the 2020 Grade 3 Shuvee at the Spa and followed two starts later with another Grade 3 score in the Rampart in December at Gulfstream Park.
Last year was a year to remember for Gutierrez, who watched Letruska dominate in four Grade 1 events at four racetracks, including Oaklawn’s Apple Blossom Handicap, the Ogden Phipps at Belmont, the Personal Ensign at the Spa and the Spinster at Keeneland. Despite a distant off-the-board finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Letruska was awarded Champion Older Dirt Female for her near-perfect campaign.
This year, Letruska boasts wins in the Grade 3 Royal Delta at Gulfstream and a repeat win in the Apple Blossom, an effort in which she bested Clairiere by 1 1/4 lengths. Letruska has been training strongly at Churchill Downs leading up to the Personal Ensign, posting four bullet works since July 10 and breezing one mile in 1:40.80 on August 4 at the Louisville oval. Her latest move was a half-mile in 48 seconds flat on August 19.
Jose Ortiz has the call again from the inside post.
Klaravich Stable’s Grade 1-winner Search Results enters for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown from a tidy three-length score last out in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher on July 23 at Monmouth Park. The 4-year-old daughter of Flatter was a stubborn third in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps as she was impressively able to keep close to the blazing fractions set by Letruska and gained a slight lead at the stretch call before tiring and finishing third, defeated just 2 1/4 lengths. Her other win this year was a three-length score in the Grade 2 Ruffian in May at Belmont.
Last year, Search Results boasted a strong campaign in which she went 4-for-6 with victories in her debut at Gulfstream Park, the Busher Invitational and Grade 3 Gazelle at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont. She finished second by a neck to Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks and third in the Grade 1 Longines Test behind the victorious Bella Sofia.
Search Results will exit post 2 in rein to Flavien Prat.
Completing the field is Phoenix Thoroughbred III’s Crazy Beautiful, who has run honest races against some of the best in her division and will look to score her first Grade 1 victory for trainer Kenny McPeek.
A 4-year-old daughter of Liam’s Map, Crazy Beautiful was last seen finishing a game third behind Clairiere and Malathaat in the Shuvee after briefly holding a half-length advantage at the three-quarters call. Earlier this year, she scored a stakes victory in the Latonia at Turfway Park two starts before a battle with Army Wife in the Lady Jacqueline at Thistledown where she came up three-quarters of a length shy on June 25.
Crazy Beautiful picked up three graded wins as a sophomore, taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks at its namesake track, the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. The gray filly’s best finish at Grade 1 level was a second to stablemate Simply Ravishing as a juvenile in the 2020 Alcibiades at Keeneland.
Julien Leparoux has the call from post 4.
The Personal Ensign is slated as Race 9 on Saturday’s blockbuster card, which features the 153rd running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers in Race 11. Also featured are the Grade 2, $400,000 Ballston Spa, the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial and the Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer Invitational – a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. First post on the 13-race card is 11:35 a.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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By Mary Eddy/NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Clairiere (outside) outduels Malathaat in the G1 Ogden Phipps on June 11th, 2022 at Belmont Park (NYRA/Coglianese0