Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel will saddle his 10th starter in a New York Grade 1 race on Saturday afternoon when Spoken Fur goes to the post for the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at 1 1/2 miles. The CCA Oaks is the second leg of the New York Racing Association's Triple Tiara.
Spoken Fur won the first leg of the Triple Tiara, the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 28th, by better than five lengths. Now her owners, Amerman Racing Stables, remain eligible for a $2 million bonus if their filly can find the winner's circle in the CCA Oaks and in Saratoga's Grade 1, $750,000 Alabama on Saturday, August 16th.
Frankel, as expected, has been aces in Grade 1 races this year. Of the 10 most important events run in New York so far, he has won six of them and none of his Grade 1 starters have finished worse than third.
"After winning a Grade 1, you really look forward to winning the next one," Frankel said.
So when Spoken Fur shipped to Frankel's barn for her former owners in preparation for her stakes debut, Frankel liked the filly so much, he recommended to the Amermans that they purchase the daughter of Notebook.
"The $2 million bonus wasn't involved in our decision to purchase her," Frankel said.
Spoken Fur powered to victory in the Mother Goose in her first start for Frankel. She won three in a row for trainer Austin Smith in Kentucky before they decided to send her to New York. As impressive as her Mother Goose looks on paper and video, Frankel does not believe it was that huge an effort.
"I think it was more that the other horses in the race didn't fire their best shots," Frankel said. "Spoken Fur got a better `sheet' number beating older horses in an allowance at Churchill."
When 3-year-old fillies run 1 1/2 miles, they are entering uncharted waters. Most, if not all, will never be asked to run as far again in their careers.
"Hopefully, she can go that far, but you really don't know until they try it," said Frankel, who won the 1 1Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker to ruin Funny Cide's bid to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner.
Claiborne Farm's Yell finished second behind Spoken Fur last time out and will be looking to turn the tables Saturday.
"We hope she'll improve," trainer Shug McGaughey said of the Davona Dale winner. "She got jammed up pretty good on the backside in the Mother Goose. I don't think she'll have a problem with the distance."
Trainer George "Rusty" Arnold is looking for a more honest effort from Fircroft than what he got last time. Sent off the 8-5 favorite in the off-the-turf Sands Point, the daughter of A. P. Indy bombed, finishing eight lengths behind Savedbythelight.
"She's been an in-and-out filly," Arnold said. "She's been inconsistent, but some of her better races have come off bad races."
Fircroft was beaten 20 lengths in the Frizette last fall before coming back to win the Miss Grillo. She also ran well in the Black Eyed Susan after a disastrous start at Turfway Park.
"She was very hard to deal with in the paddock before her last race," Arnold said. "And [jockey] Jerry Bailey told me that it just got worse from the paddock to the gate. I've schooled her four of times to try to get her to settle down."
While some horsemen can be apprehensive about running 12 furlong with a filly, Arnold said he is looking forward to it.
"I want to try it," he said. "She'll never go a mile and a half on dirt again, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her."
Sands Point winner Savedbythelight will start in her first Grade 1 Saturday. She has kept nice form throughout her career, never worse than fourth in six starts. The Mt. Livermore filly ran second behind gate-to-wire winner Roar Emotion in the Demoiselle last fall.
Little Bonnet, third in the Sands Point, goes out for trainer Todd Pletcher who set a meet record here Wednesday with his 37th win. Pletcher trained Tweedside to victory in this race two years ago.
Shapes and Shadows will be making just her second start on the dirt. The California shipper's only victory was a nose decision in a maiden special weight on turf last fall.
Skipamiss jumps from the maiden ranks to a Grade 1. In her last start, she broke her maiden going one mile at Churchill Downs.
PP, HORSE, TRAINER, JOCKEY, WGT.
1. Skipamiss, Joan Scott, Shaun Bridgmohan, 121
2. Savedbythelight, Richard Violette, Jose Santos, 121
3. Yell, Shug McGaughey, John Velazquez, 121
4. Fircroft, Rusty Arnold, Jean-Luc Samyn, 121
5. Shapes and Shadows, Nick Canani, Eibar Coa, 121
6. Little Bonnet, Todd Pletcher, Edgar Prado, 121
7. Spoken Fur, Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, 121