With a perfect five-for-five record topped by an impressive score in the GI Kentucky Oaks, 'TDN Rising Star' Malathaat (Curlin) was bet like she could not lose a four-horse renewal of Saratoga's GI Coaching Club American Oaks Saturday. However, in the final strides of the nine-furlong event, it was the longest shot on the board, 14-1 shot Maracuja (Honor Code), who dethroned the mighty Malathaat with a narrow upset.
All four broke in tandem with Malathaat assuming a narrow lead rounding the clubhouse turn. Maracuja kept the favorite honest through an opening quarter in :23.38 with second-choice Clairiere (Curlin) and Rockpaperscissors (Distorted Humor) just off their heels. Clairiere moved into second with Maracuja shuffled back to a joint third as the half went in :47.13. Rockpaperscissors called it a day at the three-eighths pole, quickly backing up, while Maracuja kicked into high gear, setting her sights on the top two.
Malathaat and Clairiere turned for home together with Maracuja ranging up menacingly two paths to their outside. Malathaat dug deep to maintain her narrow advantage on the fence as her two foes continued to give her hell. Surprisingly, it was Clairiere who was first to wave the white flag with just over a sixteenth left to run, leaving the shortest and longest shots on the board to fight it out. Malathaat and Maracuja battled stride-for-stride to the wire with the latter finding an extra burst in the shadow of the wire, forging ahead just in time to deny the chalk by a head. Clairiere held third and Rockpaperscissors was eased and walked off.
It was the first Grade I victory for trainer Rob Atras, who earned his first graded win earlier this year. It was also the first graded/Grade I score for owner Beach Haven Thoroughbreds, who also campaigned MSW and New York-bred champion Newly Minted (Central Banker).
“She broke really sharp, which I was happy with, and she was kind of right there,” said Atras. “They all seemed like they were coming and I thought Ricardo [Santana, Jr.] made a smart move by backing off and coming around the outside. What a race.”
“It was nerve-racking, especially after coming in seventh in the Oaks, but it was exciting,” said John Sakkos, founding partner of Beach Haven Thoroughbreds. “I was just hoping we would perform better than the Oaks. She had been doing well and Rob and the team have done a phenomenal job with her. She had a good rest after the Oaks. We'll probably go to the [GI] Alabama [S. Aug. 21] after this.”
As for the beaten favorite, Hall of Famer John Velazquez said, “You have to play the cards you're dealt. She was doing great. She was comfortable in what she was doing, but she had to fight the whole way around and obviously set it up for somebody else. She's a great horse and you can't take that away from her.”
Graduating at third asking in a 6 1/2-panel event at Aqueduct Feb. 21, Maracuja finished second behind eventual Oaks runner-up and GI Acorn S. winner Search Results (Flatter) in that venue's GIII Gazelle S. Apr. 3. The form of that race was further flattered by third-place finisher Army Wife (Declaration of War), who went on to win both the May 14 GII Black-Eyed Susan S. and the July 2 GIII Iowa Oaks. Maracuja closed from well back to be seventh when last seen in the Apr. 30 Kentucky Oaks.
Maracuja is the second Grade I winner, third graded victor and sixth black-type scorer for her young sire Honor Code. She is also the 28th Grade I victor, 101st graded winner and 192nd black-type scorer for top broodmare sire Unbridled's Song. The A.P. Indy/Unbridled's Song cross is also responsible for MGISW Moonshine Memories (Malibu Moon), GISW Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon) and G1SW Capezzano (Bernardini). The winner's dam Patti's Regal Song is a half-sister to GSW Regally Appealing (Valid Appeal), who is the dam of MGSW & GISP Appealing Tale (Tale of the Cat) and SW Colerful Bride (Munnings). She is also a half to SW Regal Miss Copelan (Copelan), who produced MGSW sire Rockport Harbor (Unbridled's Song). Patti's Regal Song's ecent produce includes a yearling filly by Twirling Candy and a 2021 filly by Sir Prancealot (Ire). She was bred back to that stallion.
COACHING CLUB AMERICAN OAKS-GI, $465,000, Saratoga, 7-24, 3yo, f, 1 1/8m, 1:49.29, ft.
1–MARACUJA, 121, f, 3, by Honor Code
1st Dam: Patti's Regal Song (SP), by Unbridled's Song
2nd Dam: Regal Pennant, by Banner Bob
3rd Dam: Regal Relation, by Kamaraan II
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I WIN. ($200,000 Ylg '19 FTSAUG). O-Beach Haven Thoroughbreds LLC; B-River Bend Farm Inc, Austin & Janie Musselman (KY); T-Rob Atras; J-Ricardo Santana Jr. $275,000. Lifetime Record: 6-2-2-1, $407,100. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Malathaat, 121, f, 3, by Curlin
1st Dam: Dreaming of Julia (GISW, $874,500), by A.P. Indy
2nd Dam: Dream Rush, by Wild Rush
3rd Dam: Turbo Dream, by Unbridled
'TDN Rising Star' ($1,050,000 Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-Shadwell Stable; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Todd A Pletcher. $100,000.
3–Clairiere, 121, f, 3, by Curlin
1st Dam: Cavorting (MGISW, $2,063,000), by Bernardini
2nd Dam: Promenade Girl, by Carson City
3rd Dam: Promenade Colony, by Pleasant Colony
O-Stonestreet Stables LLC; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Steven M Asmussen. $60,000.
Margins: HD, 5 3/4, 52 3/4. Odds: 14.70, 0.30, 2.80.
Also Ran: Rockpaperscissors. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.