SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Jonathan Thomas will have a strong hand in the $150,000 Galway should he decide to send his two stakes-winning turf sprinters, Empress Tigress and Benbang, to the 5 1/2-furlong test for sophomore fillies on August 11 at Saratoga Race Course.
Augustin Stable’s Empress Tigress, a chestnut daughter of Classic Empire, has been perfect through two starts for Thomas with a debut maiden score in May over synthetic at Woodbine and a last out stakes triumph in the 5 1/2-furlong Coronation Cup on July 15 at the Spa. There, she dueled for the lead with Mystic Eyes before taking command at the stretch call and fending off a late bid from Poppy Flower to hold onto a half-length victory under Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
“She’s always trained like she’s a talented filly and obviously it’s great seeing it replicated in the afternoon,” said Thomas. “She’s an exciting little filly and we were thrilled.”
Empress Tigress had her first work since her stakes coup on Friday, breezing a half-mile in 50.24 seconds over the Oklahoma turf. Thomas said he was pleased with the effort and will give some thought to the Galway.
“It went good. She went 50 the right way and finished up nicely. It looks like she’s cooling out well. She’s always been pretty generous breezing,” Thomas said. “We’ll take a peek at the Galway. It’s back a little quick, so I’m not really adamant we’re going to run, but we’ll keep an eye on it.”
Thomas added it has been rewarding to see patience pay off with the late-blooming filly, who was purchased for $410,000 out of the OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training last year.
“She had some physical issues out of the 2-year-old sale, but she’s got great owners and they were very patient,” Thomas said. “She’s a prime example of taking your time and having it work. She’s always been organically fast and genuine in her training. Time will tell as we progress through the ranks where her ceiling is, but she’s been very easy to train.”
Just one day after Empress Tigress took the Coronation Cup, Thomas enjoyed another stakes victory with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Benbang, who scratched from the Coronation Cup to make a successful run in the Blue Sparkler at Monmouth Park.
The daughter of Shanghai Bobby was a debut winner at the Spa in an off-the-turf maiden last July before subsequently trying turf two starts later with a close fourth in the six-furlong Stewart Manor in November at Belmont Park. She returned in May to post a game runner-up finish in a first-level allowance at Monmouth Park en route to a win at the same condition and her Blue Sparkler victory.
Thomas said Benbang could be possible for the Galway as well.
“She’s a cool filly,” said Thomas. “She was kind of discounted at various stages of her life and was bought for $4,000 as a weanling, but she broke her maiden up here and is a stakes winner. I love those kinds of fillies.”
Another promising turf filly in Thomas’ barn is the juvenile Delight, a bay daughter of Mendelssohn who is entered to make her second start on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course in Race 6, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight over the inner turf.
Out of the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Honey Trap, Delight’s third dam is Grade 1-winner Pacific Squall. She was purchased for $400,000 at this year’s OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training and finished third in her 5 1/2-furlong debut on April 29 at Keeneland.
“I like the little 2-year-old we’re running Sunday. She’s a neat-training filly,” Thomas said. “We have some later developing 2-year-olds, so we’ll see.”
Delight’s most recent work was a half-mile drill from the gate in 50.03 seconds over the main track on July 31.
NYRA Press Office
Mail Photo: Empress Tigress tenaciously winning the Coronation Cup at Saratoga. (NYRA/Coglianese)