Nine sophomore fillies have been entered to go six furlongs on Sunday in the $250,000 Prioress Stakes (G2) at Saratoga. Among the group are a couple of last-out romping winners as well as graded scorers.
Nonna Mela is part of that latter bunch, having posted a six-length victory in last year’s Adirondack Stakes (G2) over the Spa’s main track. The Todd Pletcher trainee dropped her juvenile finale when fourth in the Frizette Stakes (G1) last October, and didn’t made her sophomore debut until August 7.
Nonna Mela wired her return by 4 1/2 lengths, once again over Saratoga’s main track, while going seven furlongs against allowance/optional claiming rivals. Javier Castellano, aboard for both that last win and the Adirondack, has the call on Sunday.
Vertical Oak will attempt to rebound in this spot after a subpar fifth in the Test Stakes (G1) last out on August 5. The Giant Oaks sophomore dominated the Goldfish Stakes by 7 3/4 lengths before recording an easy 3 3/4-length victory in the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) on May 19. She was a non-starter in the Jersey Girl Stakes next out for trainer Steve Asmussen and filled the runner-up spot in the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park on July 9. Jockey John Velazquez will be holding the reins for the first time in the Prioress.
Yorkiepoo Princess was briefly on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail earlier this spring following easy wins in the Ruthless Stakes and Busher Stakes. However, the Edward Barker pupil was well-beaten in the Gazelle Stakes (G2) and bypassed the Oaks in favor of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) on May 19 at Pimlico. She was distanced in that contest as well, and two races later finished ninth while trying turf for the second time in her career. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode the Kantharos filly in her earlier stakes wins and returns to the saddle for this main-track contest.
Downtown Mama makes her stakes bow in this spot for trainer Linda Rice, and puts her three-for-three mark on the line under Jose Ortiz. The Speightstown filly scored a three-quarter length win in her racing bow at Laurel Park on April 23 over a sealed, muddy track, then wired her next two at Belmont Park. Rice nominated Downtown Mama to the Test Stakes, but opted to wait for the Prioress after that race came up tough.
“We’ve been kind of sitting on our hands, waiting for the Prioress and hoping that the two fillies from the Test wouldn’t come back, so hopefully that’ll work out for us,” Rice explained. “(The pace) was part of the reason I didn’t go to the Test with her. She’s been a little rank in her races and run up close and I was afraid it’d be a recipe for disaster in the Test.
“I think we’ve given her a little more time going into this race and, here, it’s possible we might be sitting off the pace, we could be on the lead, I’m just going to leave that to Jose Ortiz. He’s having a good meet, I’ll let him figure it out.”
Both Student Body and Sister Kan romped in their last races. Student Body wired a six-furlong Ellis Park allowance by 11 lengths for trainer Christopher Davis, good for a field-topping 104 BRIS Speed rating. Sister Kan led every step of the way in an Indiana Grand allowance/optional claimer going that same distance to triumph by 13 lengths. James Graham rides Student Body and Robby Albarado has piloting duties on Sister Kan.
Completing the Prioress field are dual stakes winner Golden Mischief, once-beaten Royal Inheritance and recent three-length allowance scorer Dawn the Destroyer.