by TERESA GENARO
More than any other race meeting in the country, Saratoga is known for showcasing two-year-olds; bettors, trainers, and owners eagerly await the opportunity to see which youngsters distinguish themselves at the Old Spa, and Steve Asmussen is no different. On opening day, he won the first open maiden race for two-year-old fillies, his Lyrical Lady announcing her presence with an emphatic 5 3/4-length win.
“She is who we planned on running in the first maiden,” the trainer said. “She wasn’t a secret.”
Bet down to even-money, Todd Pletcher’s first-time start for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Repole Stable, Blahnik, broke badly and was never in contention, opening the door for the other juvenile fillies to take advantage of her bad fortune.
Under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., Lyrical Lady used the speed she flaunted at the Ocala Breeders Sale in March, where she clocked the fastest breeze of the sale. Maintaining a slight lead up the backstretch and into the stretch, she responded enthusiastically to Santana’s urging and romped home.
“We thought Todd’s horse would come and challenge her, but that didn’t happen,” said Amer Abdulaziz, the founder of owner Phoenix Thoroughbreds, from Dubai. “I watched the race and she was very impressive.”
Lyrical Lady was an RNA at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, bringing a final bid of $77,000. Buyers were more enthusiastic, to say the least, six months later, when Phoenix had to go to $650,000 for her.
“She had the best look and confirmation,” Abdulaziz explained. “She was the best filly at the sale, and Steve and we loved her.”
Asmussen was more succinct in offering his opinion of her when he saw her at the sale.
“Her speed is what we liked about her,” he said. “That purchase price shows that she has a lot of ability.”
By More Than Ready out of the Unbridled’s Song mare La Song, Lyrical Lady was bred in Kentucky by Centaur Farms Inc. As Brisnet’s Kellie Reilly pointed out on Twitter, the filly is bred on the same cross as Copper Bullet, Asmussen’s 2017 Saratoga Special (G2) winner.
Lyrical Lady was followed home by longshot She’s Got It All, owned by Churchill Downs Racing Club, purchased for a modest $35,000 and trained by D. Wayne Lukas. A head back in third was Live Oak Plantation’s Winandyourin Gin, who finished a nose in front of Stone Farm’s Teletype.
The 10-cent superfecta paid $2,303.70, proof of the money to be made in the maiden races, as three of the top four went off as longshots.
A stakes race at Saratoga is next for Lyrical Lady, who arrived here three weeks ago. Asmussen declined to name any possibilities, wanting “to give this race the respect it deserves.”
“If you’re running in a maiden race this week,” he said, “you think they’re quality or you didn’t bring them to begin with.”