A Cup of Coffee--August 12, 2001

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

"From a mile to a mile and a sixteenth on firm turf, she could be one of the best, if not the best fillies," said Christophe Clement yesterday morning as he leaned on the rail next to the Oklahoma track.

Of course it rained Thursday (enough to take all the races off the grass on Friday) and forecasts are throwing out 50 percent chance of rain for tomorrow.

"She's a nice filly, looks great, training great, she's very good. She won't like it if it's too soft. In case we get more rain I put the another filly in," Clement said.

The "one of the best, if not the best" filly is Penny's Gold. The plan B filly is Step With Style. Both look imposing enough in their assigned positions for the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup, a Grade III handicap going 1 1/16 mile on the turf.

Penny's Gold ran once and won once in February, March, and April. And has not run since. The daughter of Kingmambo was set to run in The Just A Game on Belmont Stakes day but fell sick a week before the race. Clement said there wasn't a stakes on the grass for her until this one.

Step With Style has run five times in this country, winning three times and her two losses came by a nose. She's run once in the mud and won that easily enough. Clement shipped her to Rockingham Park for her last start, just a week ago, where she finished second to Shopping For Love in the Spicy Living Handicap.

So you'll only run one?

"Most probably," Clement said.

Penny's Gold couldn't care less a day before the Ballston Spa whether it rains or not. The small bay filly stood in stall 33 with her head buried in a hay net while Clement asked her to move back and "show yourself." She showed herself all right. She acted like Clement might steal her hay net, a half rear up in the air with her ears pinned back left the trainer impressed, even if she never showed herself to the interested observer.

"That's what I like to see, " Clement commented as she showed her attitude for training in the stall.

A few doors down from Penny's Gold was the chestnut Step With Style. More solid but no bigger than Penny's Gold, she wasn't watching the sky for rain merely standing in the center of the stall passing the day idly.

Training was over, Clement and his assistants arranged shipping plans and tied up the day's loose ends, bantering back and forth in French, English and Spanish. A tongue tie hung from a screw eye, an empty Stewarts Lemonade jug sat on a navy brush box, a Baker blanket and sheet draped over the top of each stall door. Penny's Gold and Step With Style waited for lunch.

"She's easy to train, easy to ride, mentally great, sound. The type a trainer likes to train," Clement said. "But it's a stake in New York. Let's not forget Gaviola has won six or seven graded stakes (only five but who's counting)."

Gaviola tries to get her year back on track in the Ballston Spa. Trained by Billy Turner, she was the 3-year-old filly queen in New York last year, winning six of eight. This year, she's managed one win in four starts. Her last race was a game performance finishing second to Clement's England's Legacy in the 1 1/4 mile New York Handicap. She's back at a better distance but will have to contend with plenty of company near the front end.

Clement respects Gaviola but definitely is ready to get Penny's Gold back to the races.

"She's training great. She's worked twice on the turf very well, let's go."