SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Slam Dunk Racing, Doug Branham and Legacy Ranch, Inc.’s multiple graded-stakes winner Tonalist’s Shape, who boasts six wins from seven starts, returns to action in Saturday’s Grade 1, $350,000 Coaching Club American Oaks, a nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr., the chestnut daughter of 2014 Belmont Stakes-winner Tonalist was purchased privately following a smart debut score in September at Gulfstream Park
Tonalist’s Shape reeled off four consecutive wins for new connections including victories in the Hut Hut, Grade 3 Forward Gal and Grade 2 Davona Dale at the Hallandale Beach, Florida oval. Following an off-the-board effort in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, she returned to winning form last out with a commanding 3 3/4-length score in the Hollywood Wildcat at 1 1/16-miles on May 15 at Gulfstream.
She has rattled off six works dating back to June 7, with three bullet efforts, including a sharp three-eighths in 34.26 seconds Wednesday on the Saratoga main track.
“She’s doing great. She worked well yesterday in her first breeze over the track and we’re happy with where she’s at,” said Joseph, Jr. “She worked three-eighths by herself and went easily. She’s stayed in good form and we’re hopeful of a good race this weekend.”
Joseph, Jr. said the addition of blinkers, which she has worn recently in training and will race in on Saturday for the first time, have helped to focus the filly’s talent.
“She’s a filly that wasn’t very flashy in the morning, but recently she has started to improve. She trains much more forwardly in the blinkers,” said Joseph, Jr. “You never really know until they run in them how it will go, but all indications are that she will run well in them.
“We know we have a really nice filly but we have steep competition with some of the other fillies in this category,” he added. “We’re hoping to find even more improvement.”
Tonalist’s Shape will step beyond 1 1/16-miles for the first time on Saturday but Joseph, Jr. said the talented chestnut, out of the stakes-winning Harlan’s Holiday mare Hitechnoweenie, has every right to get the distance being sired by a Classic winner.
“On pedigree, it tells you she is 100 percent about stamina, but you never truly know until they do it,” said Joseph, Jr.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. retains the mount from the inside post.
WinStar Stablemates Racing will be represented by a pair of starters in Paris Lights and Crystal Ball.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert will send out Crystal Ball, a Malibu Moon bay bred in Kentucky by Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds, who graduated last out by 6 ¼ lengths on June 14 in a 1 1/16-miles maiden at Santa Anita Park.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will pilot Crystal Ball from post 5.
Paris Lights, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, graduated at second asking on May 31 at Churchill Downs, garnering a lofty 85 Beyer Speed Figure in the 1 1/16-mile maiden. She followed up with an impressive performance last out to win by 6 1/4-lengths utilizing a prominent trip in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Churchill Downs, equaling her previous Beyer figure.
She breezed an easy half-mile in 49.15 on July 12 on the Oklahoma dirt training track.
A Curlin bay bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Paris Lights will exit post 6 under returning rider Tyler Gaffalione.
Mott will also saddle Godolphin homebred Antoinette, a stakes-winning daughter of Hard Spun. The well-traveled bay graduated in October on turf at Belmont Park and followed up by winning the Tepin in an off-the-turf mile in December at Aqueduct Racetrack. She has since completed the trifecta in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and Gardenia at Oaklawn Park on the dirt, as well as last out on the turf in the Wonder Again on June 20 at Belmont.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, aboard for the last two efforts, will ride from post 2.
Four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who just secured his fifth-consecutive Belmont spring/summer meet title, will saddle impressive maiden winner Altaf.
The Shadwell Stable homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro closed from last-of-11 to romp to a 5 ½-length score last out on May 23 in a Churchill maiden mile. That effort followed a similar closing effort in her April debut on the Gulfstream turf when rallying from last-of-12 to finish seventh, defeated just four lengths.
Joel Rosario retains the mount from post 3.
Rounding out the field is Famousstyle Stables’ Velvet Crush, who boasts a record of two wins and two seconds from six starts. The Tapit chestnut, trained by Rodolphe Brisset, makes her stakes debut out of an optional-claiming win at 1 1/16-miles on June 11 at Churchill. Jose Ortiz, who guided Velvet Crush to an 8 1/4-length maiden win in December at Gulfstream, has the call from post 4.
The Coaching Club American Oaks, which offers 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers, is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. 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: Tonalist’s Shape wins the 2020 Hollywood Wildcat at Gulfstream. Credit: Coglianese Photos/Lauren King