SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Stonestreet Farms’ homebred filly Clairiere made two outings at Saratoga Race Course last summer, posting two on-the-board efforts in Grade 1 company with a third in the Coaching Club American Oaks and a runner-up finish in the Alabama behind subsequent Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat. The daughter of Curlin found the Spa’s winner’s circle this year when she turned back Malathaat for the second race in a row in Sunday’s Grade 2 Shuvee for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“I’m very happy with how she came out of the race,” said Asmussen. “It was very gratifying. She ran solid races here last year in the Coaching Club and Alabama, and it was great to see her in the winner’s circle.”
Clairiere, who picked up her first Grade 1 victory in the Cotillion last year at Parx Racing, entered the Shuvee from a memorable victory over Malathaat in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 11 at Belmont Park. She has won 3-of-4 outings this year, her only loss was a good second to 2021 Champion Older Mare Letruska in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap in April at Oaklawn Park.
Asmussen said Clairiere, the first foal out of 2016 Grade 1 Personal Ensign-winner Cavorting, will now look to join her mother on the storied list of Personal Ensign winners in this year’s running on August 27.
“She’s progressed. She’s racing royalty with the pedigree she has, and she has always kept great company,” said Asmussen. “She’s won a couple of Grade 1s and then the Shuvee, [so] her eye is on the prize in the Personal Ensign this year. We feel great going into it off of her last race and love how she’s feeling about herself. We expect her to finish off the year very strongly.”
Among Asmussen’s other stakes caliber horses at Saratoga is Grade 1-winner Gunite, who willmake his return to graded company in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam for sophomores sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.
A son of Gun Runner, who Asmussen conditioned to six Grade 1 victories, Gunite boasts a 7-for-8 in-the-money record that includes a 5 3/4-length romp in the Grade 1 Hopeful last September at Saratoga.
He finished his juvenile campaign with a distant fifth in the Grade 1 Champagne in October at Belmont Park before returning as a sophomore with a runner-up finish in a Churchill Downs optional claimer in June and a determined victory in the seven-furlong Maxfield on July 3 at the Louisville oval.
Asmussen said the Amsterdam will be a springboard for Gunite to the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 27.
“It’s quite obvious that he’s a better one-turn horse at shorter distances,” said Asmussen. “We didn’t waste him in the Derby preps, and we’ve got him coming into Saratoga for the Amsterdam and hopefully off of that, the Allen Jerkens as his goal for the summer.”
Gun Runner was also well-represented in the female juvenile division last year as Asmussen conditioned Wicked Halo to graded stakes success in the Grade 2 Adirondack at the Spa, just has he did with her mother, Just Wicked, in 2015.
While Just Wicked stretched out and remained in graded company after her Adirondack win, Asmussen said he opted to take a more conservative approach with Wicked Halo, giving her time off and bringing her back in sprints as a sophomore.
“Her mother had won the Adirondack and I jumped her off into two-turn races from there. I did too much too soon,” said Asmussen. “So, Wicked Halo’s career has been guided by the mistakes I made with her mother. I think it’s proven to have paid off. We have a solid filly with a lot of future to her.”
This year, Wicked Halo picked up a graded placing when third in the Grade 2 Eight Belles en route to two stakes victories at Churchill in the Leslie’s Lady on June 12 and the Tepin on July 2. Both Gunite and Wicked Halo are homebreds for Winchell Thoroughbreds, the longtime clients of Asmussen who co-owned Gun Runner with Three Chimneys Farm.
“Both of them are horses that did some early advertising for Gun Runner last summer,” said Asmussen. “They’re two excellent homebreds for Winchell and are both coming off recent stakes wins at Churchill and have run well at Saratoga. I’m very fortunate to get to continue to run them.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Clairiere heading to the finish line in the Shuvee with Malathaat stalking. (NYRA/Coglianese)