ELMONT, N.Y. – Stonestreet Stables’ Kentucky homebred Clairiere stormed home late to take a thrilling renewal of Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Distaff in November at Keeneland.
Clairiere bolstered the legacy of her dam, 2016 Ogden Phipps winner Cavorting, and notched the second Grade 1 win of her career under Joel Rosario when she ran down fellow Grade 1 winners Search Results and Malathaat in the 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares over the fast main track.
“It was heart, soul and guts, absolutely,” said Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. “What can you say about her? She is racing royalty by Curlin out of Cavorting. The race she put together today was beautiful.”
The bay daughter of Curlin emerged from post 4 and was settled in last-of-5 by Rosario as post-time favorite and 2021 Champion Older Mare Letruska was rushed up the rail by Jose Ortiz from the inside post to challenge Search Results and Irad Ortiz, Jr. for the lead. The two quickly opened an 11-length lead on the reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat in third under Hall of Famer John Velazquez through an opening quarter-mile in 22.75 seconds and a half-mile in a demanding 45.23.
Rosario remained collected aboard Clairiere and made a move to the outside of Malathaat as Letruska began to tire rounding the turn. Search Results continued to find more under Ortiz, Jr. and battled back along the rail as Clairiere and Malathaat were on even terms at the stretch call. The three of them met near the sixteenth pole in a dramatic battle for the wire before Search Results finally yielded on the inside path and Clairiere was left with just one foe to overcome.
Malathaat battled back to her inside valiantly under strong urging from Velazquez but could not gain an advantage as Clairiere collared her by a head, posting a final time of 1:41.10.
It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Search Results in third with Bonny South rounding out the superfecta 6 3/4 lengths in back of her. Letruska completed the order of finish.
Rosario said Clairiere was game to the wire.
“She was tough to beat and for a second I thought she got me, but she really responded and we got lucky we got it,” said Rosario. “I started by following Johnny for a bit and turning for home it looked like I may never go by, but she did go by.
“The filly responded and you never know until you get there but she did really well,” Rosario added.
The win was emotional for Asmussen, who trained Clairiere’s sire, Curlin, to seven Grade 1 wins in a Hall of Fame career.
“It’s extra special that she’s a daughter of Curlin,” said Asmussen. “I’m getting ridiculously sentimental about her being by him and everything he did to allow us another opportunity. When you’re the one chosen to train a Curlin out of Cavorting, life is good.”
Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables, who also bred Malathaat, said she was proud of both efforts.
“I always felt Clairiere was coming on strong and if she got a little bit of pace she would do it, and she did it,” said Banke. “She got pace and she did it. I was happy to see Malathaat right behind her. Those are two Stonestreet homebred Curlin fillies. You can’t beat that.”
Clairiere arrived at the Ogden Phipps from a game second to Letruska in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 23 at Oaklawn Park. She earned her first top-level victory with a last-to-first effort in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx Racing in September where she defeated subsequent Grade 1 winner Obligatory by 2 1/2 lengths.
The Ogden Phipps was redemption for Clairiere, who was defeated 1 1/2 lengths by Malathaat in last year’s Alabama at Saratoga Race Course. She has now won three graded stakes races and placed in five others.
“I think she’s even better this year,” Asmussen said. “She was a wonderful filly last year, but as a 4-year-old, she’s faster now than she was then. This is a tremendous stage to do it on.”
Clairiere will make use of the berth she secured in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff for her Ogden Phipps victory and will use a trip to Saratoga Race Course for the Grade 1, $750,000 Personal Ensign on August 27 as a springboard to the end-of-year championships.
“The horse goes to Saratoga next; looking at the Personal Ensign,” Asmussen said. “The Breeders’ Cup Distaff is the main goal.”
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher praised Malathaat, but said a change of equipment may be in order for last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner.
“Johnny said she kind of lost focus the last sixteenth of a mile. It’s probably time to think about some blinkers, which we’ve had in the back of our minds for a while,” Pletcher said. “As we saw in the race at Keeneland [Grade 3 Doubledogdare], she made the lead and completely stopped. She’s always been one that’s very curious and looks around a lot. It caught him off-guard because usually if she has a horse next to her, she’ll stay focused, but the last 100 yards she saw something and kind of came off the bridle. It’s a big effort.”
Clairere returned $11.60 for a $2 win wager. She improved her record to 13-5-4-2 and boosted her total purse earnings to more than $1.7 million.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with a nine-race card featuring the $150,000 Jersey Girl for sophomore fillies going six furlongs on the main track in Race 3 at 2:03 p.m. Eastern. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/belmont/racing/tv-schedule.
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By Mary Eddy
Photo by Joe Labozzetta