A wild pace duel between champion older dirt female Letruska and Search Results set the table for late runners in Saturday’s $500,000 Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park, and Clairiere edged champion three-year-old filly Malathaat by a head after a thrilling stretch drive.
The duo raced close together while far back, nearly 15 lengths off the pace after the opening half-mile, and Malathaat held a narrow advantage as they began to rally in tandem, leaving the far turn with serious momentum. Clairiere got up determinedly in the final strides to earn a major win.
“(Malathaat) was tough to beat and for a second I thought she got me, but she really responded and we got lucky we got it,” jockey Joel Rosario said. “I started by following Johnny (Velazquez on Malathaat) for a bit and turning for home it looked like I may never go by, but she did go by. The filly responded and you never know until you get there, but she did really well.”
The older female dirt division appears wide-open heading into the second half of the season.
Winner of the Cotillion (G1) and a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) last fall, Clairiere opened her four-year-old season with a convincing allowance win at Fair Grounds, and the bay daughter of Curlin was exiting a fast-closing second in the April 23 Apple Blossom (G1) at Oaklawn to Letruska, who had everything her own the way on the lead that afternoon.
Circumstances were different Saturday (contested opening splits in :22.75, :45.23, and 1:09:23), and Clairiere was up to the task as the 9-2 third choice among five runners, completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:41.10.
Clairiere has earned $2,004,592 from a 13-5-4-2 record, and Steve Asmussen trains for owner/breeder Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stable.
“I think she’s even better this year,” Asmussen said. “She was a wonderful filly last year, but as a four-year-old, she’s faster now than she was then. This is a tremendous stage to do it on.”
Malathaat, the 3-1 second choice following a season-opening win in the April 22 Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland, was 2 1/4 lengths clear of Grade 1 winner Search Results, who put away Letruska on the far turn but couldn’t hold off the late runners. It was nearly seven more lengths back to Bonny South, and Letruska was eased to the finish line.
A Kentucky-bred filly, Clairiere hails from the multiple Grade 1-winning, $2 million-earner Cavorting, a daughter of Bernardini and also the dam of this year’s Silverbulletday S. winner La Crete.
It was an emotional win for Asmussen, who trained Clairiere’s sire, Hall of Famer and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.
“It’s extra special that she’s a daughter of Curlin,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said. “I’m getting ridiculously sentimental about her being by him and everything he did to allow us another opportunity. When you’re the one chosen to train a Curlin out of Cavorting, life is good.”
Clairiere will point to the $750,000 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga on August 27.