Trainer Todd Pletcher said last week that he was optimistic two turns could continue to suit Nonna Madeline’s strengths. The 4-year-old daughter of Candy Ride proved her connections prophetic, dueling with Golden Award into the stretch before pulling away to a 1 1/4-length win in Wednesday’s $85,000 Summer Colony for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Teresa Viola Racing Stales and St. Elias Stable, Nonna Madeline entered looking for her first win of the campaign after back-to-back runner-up efforts, including at 1 1/16 miles on April 16 at Oaklawn Park. Stretching out to 1 1/8 miles for the first time, Nonna Madeline, the even-money favorite, stayed just off 3-2 Golden Award’s early fractions as she led the five-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.31 seconds, the half in 46.22 and three-quarters in 1:09.66 on the fast main track.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. moved Nonna Madeline up from the outside, taking command entering the stretch. At the top of the straightaway, Ortiz, Jr. gave left-handed encouragement to ward off Golden Award’s bid to retake the lead near the rail. Nonna Madeline hit the wire in a 1:49.13 final time, earning her first stakes win in seven attempts for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“I had a perfect trip,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “We didn’t know what [Golden Award] was going to do. I just went with my plan to come running out of there and if I can make the lead easy, make it, and if something else changed, Todd let me do whatever I needed to do.
“The other horse [Golden Award] was right there in the first turn,” he continued. “She broke sharp, so I just sat second beside her. We were going a little fast but I didn’t have too many options. She was the filly to beat so I had to stay there. She was very comfortable. She wasn’t going that keen, and on the backside she relaxed a little bit and she was still in the race. She never backed up, so that was great.”
Pletcher trained three-fifths of the field, with Bellera and Always Shopping running third and fourth, respectively, while the Rob Atras-conditioned Bossy Bride completed the order of finish in fifth.
“I didn’t anticipate that they would go that fast. It sort of turned into a match race up front, and I’m proud of her for digging in and finding more the first time going a mile and an eighth,” Pletcher said. “She was coming out of some faster races so we anticipated we’d be close.
“Like I said before the race, you can have a plan but you’re not sure what everyone else’s plans are,” he added. “We were in a good position for that filly, and I thought [stablemate] Bellera was sitting an ideal trip and just kind of ran evenly. It was a big effort from Nonna Madeline and nice to see her get a stakes win.”
Nonna Madeline made her first Saratoga appearance since running twice as a juvenile in 2018, finishing second in the Grade 3 Schuylerville and fifth in the Grade 1 Spinaway. On Wednesday, she returned $4.30 on a $2 win bet and improved her career earnings to $202,190.
“The more we’ve done with her and having had the opportunity to run her two turns at Oaklawn, I thought there was a decent chance she’d see out the mile and an eighth,” Pletcher said. “To be honest with you, I looked at this one hoping to get that stake win for her. Now that we’ve got that, we can be a little more ambitious.”
Golden Award, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado, finished 7 ¼ lengths in front of Bellera, placing for the 10th time in 14 career races for the 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare.
“I had a great trip,” Alvarado said. “I thought there was going to be a little more competition at the end but my horse and the winner took it from the beginning. We were head-to-head the whole way, and I think today the other horse was best. We were just second-best.”
Bellera, who capped her 2019 with a win in the Grade 3 Comely in November at Aqueduct Racetrack and last out ran third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in June, earned blacktype for the fifth time in six starts.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a nine-race card that includes the $100,000 New York Stallion Stakes Series Cab Calloway for state-bred 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf in Race 8 at 5:14 p.m. First post is 1:10 p.m.
NYRA Press/ Photo Credit: Chelsea Durand Photo