SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – WinStar Stablemates Racing’s Crystal Ball, perfect through three starts as a 4-year-old, will put that mark on the line when facing five graded stakes winners in Sunday’s 45th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee for older fillies and mares going at Saratoga Race Course.
The nine-furlong test honors the multiple stakes-winning Hall of Fame distaffer whose accolades include victories in the Alabama, Mother Goose, Acorn, Coaching Club American Oaks and Beldame. The daughter of Nashua’s biggest claim to fame was defeating males in back-to-back years in the Jockey Club Gold Cup [1970-71]. Shuvee earned Champion 3-Year-Old Filly honors in 1969 before being named Champion Older Female the following two years. She was owned by Anne Minor Stone and trained by Willard Freeman.
Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, Crystal Ball has won all three of her 2021 starts over different racetracks with different jockeys. The daughter of Malibu Moon commenced her campaign with an allowance optional claiming score on April 2 at Santa Anita where Flavien Prat piloted her to a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure. After shipping to Churchill Downs to win for the next condition going 1 1/16 miles on May 8 under Florent Geroux, she transferred to Brisset’s barn and won the nine-furlong Lady Jacqueline on June 26 at Thistledown with Luis Saez up.
“When she got switched to us our main goal was to win a stakes with her and we accomplished that last time,” Brisset said. “The mare is 3-for-3 this year. She’s training well, she likes this track. I think it’s the next logical spot for her to try and win a graded stakes with her now. She’s a gorgeous mare physically. She’s obviously going to be in the WinStar broodmare band. It would be nice for her to win that.”
Winless in two starts at the Spa, Crystal Ball made a good showing in her first start at Saratoga in last year’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, where she set the pace and battled gamely with fellow WinStar Stablemates color bearer Paris Lights, finishing just a head shy of victory.
“We were able to get her back to Keeneland right after the race in Ohio. We gave her two weeks galloping and she had two nice breezes there. She shipped well here,” Brisset said. “She trained very well Thursday morning. We’ll school her at the gate, and we’ll just do our normal routine, take her over there on Sunday and see what happens.”
Crystal Ball will be piloted by Saez from post 6.
Trainer Chad Brown brings a trio of graded stakes winners to the Shuvee in Gold Spirit [post 2, Javier Castellano], Dunbar Road [post 4, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] and Royal Flag [post 7, Joel Rosario].
Making her first start in North America, Gold Spirit was a Group 1 winner in her native Chile, capturing the Alberto Solari Magnasco at 1 ¼ miles in November. A victory from Gold Spirit would give owner Sumaya U.S. Stable their second Shuvee victory after winning in 2003 with Wild Spirit, who also made her United States debut in the Shuvee.
Peter Brant’s Dunbar Road seeks to recapture her winning form from last season, where she won the Shawnee at Churchill Downs and Grade 2 Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park in her first two starts. The three-time graded stakes winning daughter of Quality Road conquered her lone start at the Spa with a 2 ¾-length victory in the 2019 Grade 1 Alabama.
Dunbar Road boasts the highest lifetime earnings as the field’s lone millionaire, banking $1,210,740 through a 12-6-1-3 record.
W.S. Farish’s Royal Flag, second in last year’s Shuvee to subsequent Grade 1 winner Letruska, has never missed the board in nine starts bragging a 4-3-2 record.
The 5-year-old daughter of Candy Ride won the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm on November 7 at Aqueduct going nine furlongs in her only graded stakes victory and returned five months later to finish a narrow second in the Grade 3 Doubledogdare on April 16 at Keeneland.
A Kentucky homebred, Royal Flag is out of the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull, making her a full-sister to graded stakes winner Eagle and multiple graded stakes-winner Catalina Cruiser.
“All three horses are doing well. They’re coming off layoffs of some sort, so it’s a bit of an obstacle to overcome, but they’re all training well,” Brown said. “I’ve gotten to know Gold Spirit pretty well over the past couple of months and she seems like a quality horse. Dunbar Road ended up having a throat infection that we’ve been working on and it’s good now. I’ve been very pleased with her last few works.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle two graded stakes winners seeking his second Shuvee victory.
Godolphin’s versatile Antoinette, a stakes winner on both dirt and turf, arrives off a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on June 26 at Churchill Downs, where she maintained second position throughout and held off a late run from Envoutante.
Following a successful 4-year-old debut on turf, going gate-to-wire in the Grade 3 The Very One on February 27 at Gulfstream Park, she stretched out to 1 3/8 miles for the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay on May 1 at Belmont Park, where she set the pace once more and faded to fifth.
A win would make the bay daughter of Hard Spun a stakes-winner on both surfaces at the Spa having captured last year’s Saratoga Oaks Invitational in frontrunning fashion.
“For the time being, she’s on dirt,” said Mott, who saddled 2019 Shuvee winner Golden Award. “She’s run a couple of good races this year. The Sheepshead Bay may have been a little far. She’s shown the natural progression that horses from three to four show. They typically run faster. You like to see them do that.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Antoinette from post 5.
Horologist seeks a fourth graded stakes victory when breaking from post 1 under Junior Alvarado.
The 2020 New Jersey-Bred Horse of the Year, owned by There’s A Chance Stable, Medallion Racing, Abbondanza Racing, Parkland Thoroughbreds, Paradise Farms Corporation and David Staudacher, won last year’s Grade 3 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park and the Grade 2 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park.
The daughter of Gemologist captured her 5-year-old debut in the Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct and was a disappointing fifth last out as the favorite in the Lady Jacqueline. Through a record of 23-8-2-4, Horologist brags the most lifetime victories.
Completing the field is Christine Hatfield and Phil Hatfield’s Liberty M D, who makes her first start going two turns and at stakes caliber for trainer Ian Wilkes.
The 4-year-old bay daughter of third crop sire Constitution won her career debut on May 14 at Churchill Downs going seven furlongs before defeating winners at a one-turn mile by a half-length on June 3.
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. will ride from post 3.
The Shuvee is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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NYRA Press Release
Photo: Crystal Ball with Javier Castellano up getting ready to run in the 2020 Coaching Club American Oaks. (NYRA/Coglianese)