Undaunted by Turbulent Descent's defeat as the odds-on choice in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I), Southern California trainer Mike Puype returns to New York to try his filly in the $250,000 Test Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 6.
Turbulent Descent caught a muddy track and a superb rival in It's Tricky in the one-mile Acorn June 11. The heavy favorite loomed up on the winner on the far outside but gave way in the final furlong and was beaten by 3 3/4 lengths while finishing second.
Puype heads into the seven-furlong Test, a race he has targeted since early in the season, with renewed confidence. In addition to the cross-country trip, the Acorn was Turbulent Descent's first try on an off-track, though her trainer refused to use that as an excuse.
"I knew the day in the Acorn when I saw the filly in the paddock (It's Tricky) … I knew we were in for a big race against her because she looked so well," Puype said. "That was not a fluky win, that was a very, very nice race that It's Tricky won.
"So obviously I don't think there was anything wrong or any excuse or anything, period, about our race. I think we're going back to optimum distance for this next race. And as long as she agrees with the Saratoga racetrack I don't see why she won't come out of there with a good chance to win.
"And the Test is a very, very prestigious race to be in for a 3-year old filly, so it's been something that's been on our mind from the get go. So like I said, I'm very confident going into this race and how she's doing. Wheeling back to seven furlongs, it's right up her ally. I feel we're going to run a big race on Saturday."
Owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable, Turbulent Descent is 6-5 on the morning line for the Test. She has won five of seven lifetime starts, including grade I victories in the Hollywood Starlet and the Santa Anita Oaks. She also captured Keeneland's Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) prior to the Acorn, so the daughter of Congrats has shown a willingness to travel. David Flores, who has ridden the Florida-bred bay in all of her races, will make the trip as well.
Turbulent Descent, who is expected to contest the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at seven furlong this fall, drew post 6 in the field of nine 3-year-old fillies. It's Tricky, who won the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Saratoga July 23, is not part of the Test field. The Test, on the Whitney Invitational (gr. I) undercard, is race 9 on the program with a 5:12 p.m. EDT post.
Trainer Todd Pletcher starts Her Smile, winner of the Prioress Stakes (gr. I) over six furlongs in her last start July 4 at Belmont. That was the first graded stakes win for Bobby Flay's Virginia-bred daughter of Include . Her Smile ran third in the Acorn, though she finished 10 lengths behind Turbulent Descent in what was also her first try in the mud.
Her Smile, 4-1 on the morning line, had improved with each cutback in distance leading up to her breakthrough win in the Prioress.
“Her pedigree indicates she was adaptable to longer races," Pletcher said. "We’ll see how the Test goes and go from there. The Test seemed like a logical move after the Prioress.”
Javier Castellano, who rode Her Smile for the first time in her half-length Prioress triumph, retains the mount. Like Turbulent Descent, Her Smile was assigned high weight of 122 pounds for the Test.
Pletcher also entered WinStar Farm's Savvy Supreme, who finished last in the Acorn. The Distorted Humor filly came back to run second in a Belmont overnight stakes as the choice July 15. Jose Lezcano rides.
Pomeroys Pistol, owned and trained by Amy Tarrant, just missed to Her Smile when second in the Prioress with a big off-the-pace effort. The daughter of Pomeroy won the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) during a strong Gulfstream Park campaign this winter. John Velazquez gets the call.
“She’s a stalker,” added Tarrant, who is based at Monmouth Park. “She stalks and then pours it on. She’s a homebred. I’m owner, breeder, and trainer, so she’s special. This is the best filly I’ve ever had. We’re thinking she deserves a shot up here.”
Craig Singer's Salty Strike cuts back in distance for trainer Ken McPeek after vying for the lead and fading late in the 1 1/16-mile Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont June 25. The daughter of Smart Strike won the one-mile Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) in impressive fashion at Churchill Downs three weeks earlier by nearly four lengths. Manny Cruz stays aboard Salty Strike, who drew the far outside post.
Coax Liberty, trained by Jim Lawrence II for Copper Penny Stables, ran third behind Turbulent Descent in the Beaumont and came back to score by two lengths over Savvy Supreme in the aforementioned overnight stakes.
Trainer Bob Baffert hopes to continue his East Coast assault with a gray/roan daughter of Stormy Atlantic . Kaleem Shah's American Lady makes her stakes debut off of two wins in three starts, most recently taking a 6 1/2-furlong allowance at Hollywood Park June 30. First-call rider Martin Garcia is aboard.
“She is training like a stakes filly,” Baffert said. “She’s a very talented filly.”
Trainer Mike Hushion entered Ava K. and Roman Treasure.
Black Swan Stable's stakes-winning Roman Treasure attempts to rebound from a fifth-place effort in the Prioress. Lewis Rapaport's New York-bred Ava K. comes in off back-to-back stakes wins over state-bred competition.
$250,000 Test Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Ava K. (NY), J R Leparoux, 116, M E Hushion
2. American Lady (KY), M Garcia, 116, B Baffert
3. Roman Treasure (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, M E Hushion
4. Coax Liberty (KY), E Castro, 116, J L Lawrence, II
5. Savvy Supreme (KY), J Lezcano, 116, T A Pletcher
6. Turbulent Descent (FL), D R Flores, 122, M Puype
7. Pomeroys Pistol (FL), J R Velazquez, 120, A Tarrant
8. Her Smile (VA), J Castellano, 122, T A Pletcher
9. Salty Strike (KY), M R Cruz, 118, K G McPeek