Eleven months after making her successful stateside debut at Saratoga Race Course, Watsdachances returns to familiar surroundings looking to regain her form.
Trained by Mechanicville, N.Y. native Chad Brown for owners Michael Kisber and Bradley Thoroughbreds, the 3-year-old daughter of Diamond Green aims for her first victory of 2013 in the $200,000 Lake George (gr. IIIT) July 24 on the inner turf.
The 1 1/16-mile Lake George for 3-year-old fillies came up strong with a field of eight including Tapicat
and Kitten's Dumplings
. It will be the third start of the year for Watsdachances, an Irish-bred filly who is winless thus far. She was fourth by 2 1/4 lengths in the April 18 Appalachian (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland
and third by two lengths in the May 27 Sands Point (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park
After being imported from Ireland, Watsdachances went 2-for-3 in 2012 for Brown, winning the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga and the Miss Grillo (gr. IIIT) at Belmont before running a strong second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park
"She hasn't really picked up where she left off in her 2-year-old year with that good second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup," Brown said. "Her first two races of the year weren't bad, but they were subpar for her standards. She was training well going into both of those races, and she had no excuse in either one not to win.
"I think she's training a little bit better her last couple of works. It's time for her to step up and pick up where she left off, being really the top 2-year-old turf filly in the country, as she proved in the Breeders' Cup. I'm looking for that kind of a race out of her in the Lake George."
Since arriving this year in Saratoga in mid-June, Watsdachances has had six local works for the Lake George, including a pair of half-mile breezes on the turf. Her most recent, in :50.89, came on opening day, July 19.
"That was part of the thinking," Brown said, "seeing that she's off form just a touch, to get her up to Saratoga early, which we did. Maybe she thrives in this environment. It may have worked. Her coat's really come around, and she looks fabulous in the morning. It could be a Saratoga thing for her to get her back on track."
Favored in each of her two starts to open the year, Watsdachances is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line in the Lake George. She will leave from the rail with Javier Castellano aboard.
The top two choices are Besilu Stable's 2-1 morning-line favorite Tapicat, a winner of three straight races who is unraced by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott since her victory in the Feb. 2 Florida Oaks (gr. IIIT), and Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Kitten's Dumplings, a multiple graded stakes winner who took the grade III Regret last time out and is 5-2 on the morning line.
With Hall of Famer Mike Smith riding, Tapicat will leave from post position 2 while Kitten's Dumplings, who was second to that rival in the Florida Oaks, breaks from post position 6 with Joel Rosario in the irons. The Tapit
filly and her Kitten's Joy
rival are co-highweights assigned 122.
Two horses will be making their stakes debuts in the Lake George: promising Darley Stable homebred Midnight Watch
and undefeated Blossom's Trail
, the latter making her first start for trainer Gary Contessa.
Blossom's Trail, a bay daughter of Purge, was also is entered in the $100,000 My Princess Jess overnight stakes July 20 but was scratched out of that race.
"I figured we could be 20-1 in a 12-horse field, or 30-1 in a six-horse field on Wednesday, and it's graded," Contessa said. "You never know. She's not a bad filly. She'll be the only undefeated filly to ever go off at such high odds in a stake. She's been led over there three times, and she's won three times. I do expect a miracle. I expect to win it but, again, I don't know that I'm going to win it. We're going to find out what she's made of, but she's done everything right so far."
Blossom's Trail broke her maiden first time out March 1 and came back to win an optional claimer four weeks later, both at Gulfstream Park
, for trainer Ralph Nicks. Contessa claimed her for $65,000 on behalf of Wounded Warrior Stables following her latest victory June 20 at Belmont.
"You've got to love a horse that wins. She wins," Contessa said. "You can't go wrong claiming a horse that does nothing but win. She's my kind of horse."
At 15-1 on the morning line, Blossom's Trail drew post position 3 under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado.
Midnight Watch takes a two-race win streak into the Lake George for Darley and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Eleventh of 12 following a tardy start in her Feb. 1 debut at Gulfstream, the Stormy Atlantic
filly went gate-to-wire in maiden and allowance victories, both against older horses, 25 days apart in May at Belmont.
"She's won her last two, and she's a nice filly," McLaughlin said. "She had little issues (as a 2-year-old) but she's done very well this year. Her first time out she had a terrible break and was in all kinds of trouble; the next two times, she broke and was gone. She's a very fast filly.
"It just took a little bit of time before we got her back in," said McLaughlin of Midnight Watch, 5-1 from post position 5. "She's doing well. It's a tough race, but we're all right. They've got to catch us."
Also in the Lake George field are the undefeated Maximova
, who improved to 3-0 with a head victory in the Bit of Whimsy Stakes at Belmont June 16, Fab Flowers
, and Skyfall
, who was entered for the main track only.
$200,000 Lake George Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 9, approximate post time 5:20 p.m. EDT), 1 1/16 miles (inner turf)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Watsdachances (IRE), J. Castellano, 120, C C Brown, 4-1
2. Tapicat (KY), M.E. Smith, 122, W I Mott, 2-1
3. Blossom's Trail (KY), E.S. Prado, 116, G C Contessa, 15-1
4. Maximova (NY), J. Lezcano, 120, C Clement, 6-1
5. Midnight Watch (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 116, K P McLaughlin, 5-1
6. Kitten's Dumplings (KY), J. Rosario, 122, M J Maker, 5-2
7. Fab Flowers (IL), J. Alvarado, 116, H Allen Jerkens, 20-1
8. Skyfall (KY) (MTO), J.R. Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher, 5-2