Close Hatches puts a three-race win streak on the line against six rivals Aug. 22 in the $500,000 Personal Ensign Invitational (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course.
The 4-year-old First Defence filly is undefeated in her trio of starts this season and drew post six for the 1 1/8-mile event for fillies and mares when entries were taken Aug. 18. A field of seven—all graded stakes winners—is set for the race, which is goes as race 9 on the 11-race card. Post time for the Personal Ensign, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" Challenge race for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), is 5:15 p.m. EDT.
A Juddmonte Farms homebred, the 8-5 favorite on the morning line and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Close Hatches enters off a head victory over fast-finishing Princess of Sylmar in the June 7 Ogden Phipps (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
Close Hatches has won all three times in 2014, including the March 15 Azeri Stakes (gr. II) followed by the April 11 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I), both at Oaklawn Park, She has had more than 60 days between starts and Mott decided to train her up to the Personal Ensign following the Phipps.
"She's always run pretty good off the bench," said Mott. "Her works have been good, and I think we've got enough in her. She always run very well when she's had time between races."
Four of the top five finishers in the Ogden Phipps reoppose in the Personal Ensign, including Princess of Sylmar; Antipathy, who was just a neck back in third; and fifth-place finisher Belle Gallantey.
"I'm sure it will be a very competitive group of horses," said Mott. "They were all pretty well bunched up in the Phipps. She came out the winner, but it was a close finish."
Joel Rosario has the return call on Close Hatches.
Ed Stanco's Princess of Sylmar is unbeaten in two starts at Saratoga, having won last year's Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama (both gr. I). She added a victory in the Beldame Invitational (gr. I) in September at Belmont before finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Prior to the Phipps, she won the Cat Cay Stakes in April at Aqueduct Racetrack in her 4-year-old debut.
"She just missed in the Phipps," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "She ran a big race (in the Phipps) and didn't get a proper set-up in the Delaware Handicap and maybe didn't run her 'A' race, but she has been training exceptionally well and we believe she is sitting on a good effort."
Javier Castellano will ride Princess of Sylmar, the 9-5 morning-line second choice.
Belle Gallantey, beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the Phipps, rebounded to win the July 12 Delaware Handicap (gr. I), leading from start to finish and defeating Princess of Sylmar by 2 3/4 lengths. The 5-year-old has vastly improved since being claimed for $35,000 last December at Aqueduct by trainer Rudy Rodriguez on behalf of an ownership group headed by Michael Dubb. She rattled off entry-level allowance and starter allowance wins on the inner track in January and February before taking an optional claimer by 3 1/2 lengths in May at Belmont Park prior to the Phipps, and then made all the pace in the Delaware Handicap.
Although Belle Gallantey had been running in sprints before she was claimed, Rodriguez said he and the owners thought she had tremendous potential around two turns.
"That's why we claimed her during the winter," the trainer explained. "We know she can go long, and during the winter not too many horses can go two turns."
Belle Gallantey, pegged at 8-1 odds, will have Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Godolphin's Antipathy, third in the Phipps at 30-1, bounced back to win the Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) by two lengths in the mud on July 27 at Saratoga, defeating Stanwyck, who also was entered in the Personal Ensign. The Shuvee was run at the Personal Ensign's 1 1/8-mile distance.
"We need some racing luck or her to run her 'A' race (to win the Personal Ensign)," said Kiaran McLaughlin. "It's a tough group, but we're happy to be in there, and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, we'll have a good day. I think she (belongs among the best in the division). She missed by only a half-length in the Phipps and came back and won."
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Antipathy, the 5-1 third choice.
Coming in from California is Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman's Fiftyshadesofhay, who won the Ruffian (gr. II) in May at Belmont. She subsequently has finished third in the Fleur de Lis (gr. II) in June at Churchill Downs and fourth in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. I) on August 2 over Del Mar's Polytrack.
Completing the field are Jerry and Ann Moss's Stanwyck, who won the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) in October at Belmont, and George Bolton, Barry Lipman, and Natrona Racing Stable's Majestic River, who captured the Molly Pitcher (gr. II) July 27 at Monmouth Park in her most recent start.
Saratoga Race Course, Friday, August 22, 2014, Race 9
- Grade I
- 1 1/8m
- 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
- 5:15 PM (local)
|1||1Antipathy (KY)||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||118||Kiaran P. McLaughlin||-|
|2||2Stanwyck (KY)||Rajiv Maragh||116||John A. Shirreffs||-|
|3||3Majestic River (KY)||Rosie Napravnik||118||Todd A. Pletcher||-|
|4||4Fiftyshadesofhay (KY)||John R. Velazquez||118||Bob Baffert||-|
|5||5Belle Gallantey (KY)||Jose L. Ortiz||120||Rudy R. Rodriguez||-|
|6||6Close Hatches (KY)||Joel Rosario||123||William I. Mott||-|
|7||7Princess of Sylmar (PA)||Javier Castellano||123||Todd A. Pletcher||-|