October 1, 2020

Guarana passes two-turn test in Coaching Club American Oaks

Guarana and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga on July 21, 2019 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography

Sensational in both career starts around one turn, Three Chimneys Farm’s homebred Guarana successfully stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in Sunday’s $485,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. The Chad Brown trainee wasn’t as dominant, however, when holding sway by one length from the pace-compromised Point of Honor.

Guarana, the 1-4 favorite, wasted no time in going straight to the lead from her rail draw. Champagne Anyone was poised on her flank through modest fractions of :24.27, :49.49, and 1:13.58, but couldn’t maintain her position entering the stretch as Guarana turned on the speed.

Quickly establishing a two-length advantage, the daughter of Ghostzapper wandered out toward the center of the track before Jose Ortiz corrected her. Point of Honor, last most of the way, was emerging as the only possible challenger. The 7-2 second choice whittled down the margin inside the final sixteenth without getting close enough to worry favorite backers.

Guarana negotiated 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.65 while confirming her status as a top contender for divisional leadership. Yet the manner of her victory – more workmanlike than brilliant, despite being the controlling speed – leaves room for question, and hope for others, including stablemate Dunbar Road.

Aside from the unfavorable pace scenario, Point of Honor was also compromised by a wide trip on both turns, having covered 43 feet more than Guarana according to Trakus. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Stetson Racing runner would be worth trying Guarana again over further (i.e., if she turns up in the August 17 Alabama [G1]) or with a more genuine tempo.

There was a Point of Honor owner’s objection lodged against Guarana, alleging interference in the stretch. The winner was clear, and her waywardness didn’t appear to interrupt the runner-up’s momentum. Hence the stewards found no cause to overturn the order of finish.

Off Topic, the 31-1 longest shot on the board, outperformed her odds in third. Last time out, she had been a non-threatening fifth behind Point of Honor in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), so the Pimlico form worked out here. The top three were well ahead of the rest, with a five-length gap back to Champagne Anyone and a further 6 1/2 back to the trailing Boxwood.

Guarana, now three-for-three with $697,400 in earnings, broke her maiden in a 14 3/4-romp in the Keeneland slop April 19. The bay stepped up from that 6 1/2-furlong sprint to the one-turn mile of the Acorn (G1) and ran right away from Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Serengeti Empress by six lengths, zipping in a stakes-record 1:33.58.

The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Distorted Humor mare Magical World, who is also responsible for unbeaten juvenile Magic Dance, recent heroine of the Debutante at Churchill Downs. Guarana’s second dam is 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) conqueror Pleasant Home, from the further family of multiple Grade 1 turf star Point of Entry, ill-fated multiple Grade 1 queen Pine Island, and Hall of Famer Sky Beauty.

Quotes from NYRA

Winning rider Jose Ortiz: “I had a very good trip. She broke very clean and I went to the lead. She was traveling very nice along the backside. From the three-eighths pole, I started feeling a little more pressure from Champagne Anyone and I asked her to start moving up and she responded really good.

“She got into full gear when I switched her to the right lead and she gave me everything she had. I wanted her to run a little faster and I tried to surprise her left-handed and she overreacted. I was lucky I was clear, because if I wasn’t as clear I would have come down because she did overreact.”

Winning trainer Chad Brown: “She handled a mile and an eighth well. I thought she got a really good ride from Jose. Nice, comfortable fractions and had enough to get to the wire. The runner-up ran terrific as well. It was a good horse race. I think she got a little lonely out there towards the wire, but like Jose indicated to me, she was starting to get a little tired. She did overreact to the stick a little bit. It caused her to briefly come out, but she was well clear.”

Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano on runner-up Point of Honor: “She (Guarana) came out too quick and intimidated my horse. I did have to stop riding a little bit. She came out pretty far.”