Elusive Princess Wears the Crown in G3 Saratoga Oaks Invitational

August 4, 2023

Elusive Princess makes her stateside debut a success under Flavien Prat (Susie Raisher)

By Mary EddyNYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Heavy rains and a yielding turf course did not dampen the spirits of LNJ Foxwoods, Ecurie Victoria Dreams, NK Racing and Anthony Munafo’s Elusive Princess, who stormed home from off the pace to claim victory in Friday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational, a 1 3/16-mile inner turf test for sophomore fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained and bred by Jean-Phillipe Dubois, the French-bred daughter of Martinborough visited the winner’s circle in her first start outside of France with a ground-saving trip engineered by Flavien Prat through the first mile before swinging out for a wide bid to run down her foes in deep stretch. It was the fourth win of the bay filly’s career, coming on the heels of a fifth-place finish in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines [French Oaks] in June at Chantilly.

Jaime Roth, the “J” in LNJ Foxwoods, said the ownership group had considered running Elusive Princess against the boys in tomorrow’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby Invitational, but held no regrets about the decision to stay in the filly division.

Elusive Princess (outside, yellow cap) makes her move (Dom Napolitano)

“We knew she would like it [soft turf], but it got a little iffy. I was wondering if they were going to take it off the turf…it cleared for the time being and it just worked out for her,” said Roth. “We thought about the Grade 1 against the boys but this was the right spot for her. First time here, get the graded stakes win and worry about the Grade 1 and Grade 2s later on. We always like to place our horses in spots where we know that they’re well-placed. After they get that one big win, then maybe you can go for it a little bit more. She’s obviously a very nice filly and we’re very excited to own a part of her.”

Off as the 6-5 post-time favorite, Elusive Princess emerged from post 3 and took her place near the rear of the field while Selenaia blitzed to the front under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to lead the field past the stands for the first time through an opening quarter-mile in 23.55 seconds. Xigera and Caroline Street vied for second position into the backstretch as Prat kept his charge in a rail-skimming sixth after a half-mile in 48.57.

Xigera inched closer to Selenaia approaching the final turn, but soon began to backpedal with American Sonja looming large on the far outside and Caroline Street finding a path along the inside after three-quarters in 1:13.56. With a wall of foes in front of them, both Papilio and Elusive Princess were swung to the outside to make their bid at the top of the lane with Prat widest of all as the field straightened for home.

American Sonja drifted wide at the top of the lane, bumping with Papilio as that pair drew away from an all-out Caroline Street into the final sixteenth. However, the two were no match for the swift turn-of-foot from Elusive Princess, who crossed the wire first by 3 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:57.08.

American Sonja held off Papilio by a half-length for second with Caroline Street completing the superfecta. Strikingly Spun, Xigera, Allamericanbeauty, Selenaia, Solo Album and Honor D Lady completed the order of finish. Aspen Grove was scratched in favor of running against males in tomorrow’s Grade 1 Saratoga Derby.

Prat said Elusive Princess had no qualms about the soft ground, and that it was special to win for Dubois, whom he has known for most of his life.

Elusive Princess after her victory in the Saratoga Oaks (Janet Garaguso)

“I was going to go outside, but I ended up being a lot wider than I thought,” said Prat. “She handled it really well. She won on soft in Europe and she was traveling well all the way around. I’m really pleased to win for Mr. Dubois who’s probably known me since I was a little kid, so it’s great to ride for him and get a winner for him.”

Hubert Guy of Bloodstock Management Services, who facilitated the purchase of Elusive Princess, said Dubois was inclined to sell an interest in the filly after she finished a hard-fought second in the Group 3 Prix Cleopatre at Saint-Cloud in April.

“I thought she was a filly that would fit really well here in this country,” said Guy. “Jean-Phillipe, who trains her, owns her, bred her and really did not want to part with her. After she was second in a Group 3 where she got into a lot of trouble – she got blocked on the rail and should have won easy – he decided to sell off.

Team Elusive Princess after their big win (NYRA/Coglianese)

“So, I contacted [bloodstock agents] Alex [Solis] and Jason [Litt] and LNJ Foxwoods – Larry, Nanci, Jaime – and we agreed on a deal that he would train the horse to the French Oaks and maybe no later, but when she finished fifth in the French Oaks – an amazing fifth because she was way too far back,” Guy continued. “She should have been closer. We wouldn’t have won, but we would have been second or third. From there, we decided to run in this race with the LNJ Foxwoods team and to have Mr. Dubois train her because he did a really good job training her. It’s the first time he’s running in America.”

Guy added conditioner Arnaud Delacour will now take over training duties as the filly pursues an American campaign.

Elusive Princess, who also finished second in the Group 1 Prix St. Alary in May at Longchamp, banked $220,000 for her Saratoga Oaks coup, boosting her total career earnings to $378,379. She returned $4.70 for a $2 win ticket.

When asked if Elusive Princess would continue on to the final leg of the Fasig-Tipton Fillies Turf Triple in the Grade 3, $350,000 Jockey Club Oaks on September 16 at Belmont at the Big A, Roth said, “We’ll take everything day-by-day.”

Oisin Murphy, who picked up the mount aboard American Sonja, said he was pleased with the Joseph O’Brien trainee.

“She traveled super and the ground is hard work,” said Murphy. “I thought she ran very well and it was probably a career-best on paper, so you have to be very happy.”

Live racing resumes Saturday at Saratoga for the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney Day card. In addition to the Whitney, the 12-race program will offer the Grade 1 Saratoga Derby in Race 9, the Grade 1, $500,000 Test in Race 8, the Grade 3, $300,000 Troy in Race 6 and the $135,000 Lure in Race 7. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.     

@jonathanstettin the win train keeps rolling down the tracks!

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