SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Proud as he is of the way Point of Honor performed last summer at Saratoga, finishing second in both the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, trainer George Weaver is hoping for a little better this year.
“She ran big here last year, but she got beat,” Weaver said. “Hopefully, she doesn’t get beat this time.”
The task will be a difficult one, as Point of Honor will line up against champion Midnight Bisou and four others in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign presented by NYRA Bets. The 1 1/8-mile event for older fillies and mares is the first of five stakes, four graded including three Grade 1s, worth $2 million in purses on a 12-race Whitney Day program.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing’s Point of Honor won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan last spring at Pimlico Race Course prior to her Saratoga runs, and did not race back until finishing second as the favorite in a seven-furlong handicap in March at Tampa Bay Downs.
The 4-year-old daughter of Hall of Famer Curlin overcame a slow start to run third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 18 at Oaklawn Park, and most recently came up a nose shy of winner She’s a Julie in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 13 at Belmont Park. Both races are contested at 1 1/16 miles.
“I think she’s a better filly at 4. I think she’s filled out and she’s a stronger filly. Her races have all been good this year, though we’re still waiting to get that first win,” Weaver said. “It’s a tough assignment on Saturday but she deserves a shot at it as much as anybody in there.”
Point of Honor drew far outside in the field of six, while Midnight Bisou will break from post 3 in defense of her 2019 Personal Ensign victory, which came by a nose over Elate with She’s a Julie third.
“Midnight Bisou is the champ. If you’re trying to pick the horses to run against you wouldn’t pick her,” Weaver said, “But, we’re here and she’s doing well and she deserves a shot at it so we’ll see what happens.”
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, aboard for seven of Point of Honor’s nine races including both Saratoga starts and the Black-Eyed Susan, has the return call Saturday.
Weaver also said R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables’ Vekoma, impressive last out winner of the Grade 1 Runhappy Met Mile on July 4 at Belmont, is doing well and expected to make his next start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego on August 29 at Saratoga.
Vekoma has yet to return to the work tab since the Met Mile, a front-running 1 ¼-length triumph that extended his win streak to three races and came 28 days after a 7 ¼-length romp in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter Handicap which, like the Forego, is contested at seven furlongs.
“I was on the fence in running back in the Met Mile after four weeks off the big race in the Carter, and following the Met Mile I was not looking to come back in four or five weeks,” Weaver said. “We’re trying to make it to the Breeders’ Cup and the Forego is the most logical next spot.
“So far, everything’s looking good and we’re looking forward to getting him back to the races,” Weaver said. “He’s always been a good horse. The sky’s the limit for him.”
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Point of Honor in a work at Oaklawn in April. Credit: Coady Photography