George Bolton and Barry Hall's Fashion Alert remained undefeated in two starts and picked up her first graded stakes victory in the process July 18, but had to work hard to do it in the $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
The 2-year-old Old Fashioned filly, coming off a June 14 victory at first asking in the Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park, was given a battle from the start by Willis Horton's maiden winner Take Charge Brandi, who comes from the same female family as defending 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge.
The Schuylerville winner's share improved Fashion Alert's overall earnings to $250,000, bolstered by a $100,000 NYRA bonus offered to any 2-year-old to break its maiden at Belmont or Aqueduct Racetrack and go on to win a graded stakes at Saratoga.
Also making her second outing and graded stakes debut, Take Charge Brandi took the lead in the six-furlong test, but Fashion Alert went after her straight away after breaking inward at the start. Regathered and sent on her way, the 1-5 favorite pressed the front-runner on almost even terms through a quarter in :22.41 and a half in :45.21.
Those two opened a six-length advantage on three others coming around the final turn, and a dogged Take Charge Brandi dug deep inside as Fashion Alert challenged for the lead under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
After running five-eighths in :57.86, Fashion Alert finally shook loose of her rival and edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. D. Wayne Lukas trainee Take Charge Brandi held second under Corey Lanerie, while Tulira's Star finished a non-threatening third with Joe Bravo. Final time from the Todd Pletcher-trained winner was 1:11.78 on a fast track.
"I know that Wayne likes his filly a lot," Pletcher said. "They got into a prolonged speed duel. You could tell they were both getting a little tired, but she showed some guts. It's nice to get it done in the Schuylerville, a race we've always held in high regard.
"It's pretty hard to win your first two, especially both in stakes, so you have to give her a lot of credit for that. You hope those kind of efforts move them forward. Those two separated themselves from the field pretty much the entire race. Two very nice fillies."
"She's definitely very talented," said Velazquez of the winner. "We wish we had a better break and got a better position at the first part. She kind of recuperated right away and got a good position going to the half-mile pole. From then on, I wanted to give her a little breather and see how she did, and down the lane she started leaning into the horse on the inside. Finally, she started getting away from her the last sixteenth of a mile."
Lanerie said he was pleased with the effort of Take Charge Brandi as well.
"It was good," he said. "She outbroke the field and just put me out there. I thought she was going pretty easy; she was well within herself. Coming to the quarter pole, I thought I had more (horse) than (Velazquez). I was kind of watching what Johnny was doing, and it looked like he was trying to nudge his horse a little bit. He obviously had more horse than I thought, but I thought I was going to run away with it.
"I think my filly probably needed the race. Last time she won so easy, and she probably got a lot more out of this race. I think the next race will be even better. She was in tight, and she ran professional."
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Abraham and Jacob Nance out of the Tiznow mare Titan Queen, Fashion Alert was a $125,000 purchase by Bolton from the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2013 when consigned by Bluewater Sales. She failed to meet her $25,000 reserve earlier that year at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale when consigned by Taylor Made.
"We'll see how she comes out of it," Pletcher said of Fashion Alert's potential next target. "I'm not going to rule out the (Aug. 10) Adirondack (gr. II), but we'll likely wait for the (Aug. 31) Spinaway (gr. I)."