June 7, 2023

Maracuja upsets Malathaat in Coaching Club American Oaks

Maracuja (outside) wins the Coaching Club American Oaks (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Maracuja got up late to win Saturday’s $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga, edging 3-10 favorite Malathaat by a head to record her first stakes victory. Easily the longest shot at 14-1 among four three-year-old fillies, Maracuja received a heady ride from Ricardo Santana Jr., who was up for owner Beach Haven Thoroughbreds and trainer Rob Atras.

After initially pressing pacesetter Malathaat through an opening quarter-mile in :23.38, Maracuja dropped back to rate just off the pace as Clairiere advanced to challenge Malathaat three wide on the backstretch. Malathaat led by a half-length through splits in :47.13 and 1:11.02, but she came under serious pressure from Clairiere rounding the far turn.

Maracuja took advantage as the top two continued to slug it out entering the stretch, rallying wide to become a menacing presence by the quarter-pole. Malathaat dismissed Clairiere in midstretch, but she didn’t have enough in reserve to withstand the closing surge of Maracuja, who finished the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.29.

“She broke really sharp, which I was happy with, and she was kind of right there,” said Atras, who notched his third career graded stakes and first Grade 1 win. “They all seemed like they were coming and I thought Ricardo made a smart move by backing off and coming around the outside. What a race. She loves the two turns.”

“The trip was perfect, she broke really well today,” Santana added. “She was running comfortably. Rob liked the filly a lot and I was happy with her. There wasn’t much pressure in this race. He told me, ‘Just do what you have to do’ and we took the victory today. I had some pressure on the side from the 4 (Clairiere) and I just let my filly take a deep breath. As soon as I took her back out, she came rolling. She ran a great race today.”

By Honor Code, Maracuja was making her first start since a well-beaten seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) 85 days earlier. The gray lass graduated the third time out at Aqueduct in mid-February, and she posted a non-threatening second in the Gazelle (G3) prior to the Kentucky Oaks.

“It was nerve-racking, especially after coming in seventh in the Oaks, but it was exciting,” said John Sakkos, founding partner of Beach Haven Thoroughbreds “I was just hoping we would perform better than the Oaks. She had been doing well and Rob and the team have done a phenomenal job with her. She had a good rest after the Oaks.”

Bred in Kentucky by River Bend Farm and Austin and Jamie Musselman, Maracuja was purchased for $200,000 as a yearling at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. The Kentucky-bred is out of the stakes-placed Unbridled’s Song mare Patti’s Regal Song, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Regally Appealing.

Maracuja has now earned $407,100 from a 6-2-2-1 record.

Kentucky Oaks and Ashland (G1) winner Malathaat ran well in defeat, sustaining the first career loss in her sixth start. She held second by 5 3/4 lengths over 5-2 second choice Clairiere, and Rockpaperscissors trailed.

“You have to play the cards you’re dealt, she was doing great,” John Velazquez said about his pacesetting trip aboard Malathaat. “She was comfortable in what she was doing, but she had to fight the whole way around and obviously set it up for somebody else. She’s a great horse and you can’t take that away from her.”