July 24, 2024

Clairiere beats Malathaat again in tactical Shuvee

Clairiere made it two straight over Malathaat in the 2022 Shuvee (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Clairiere followed up her Ogden Phipps (G1) victory over Malathaat by beating the champion again in Sunday’s $186,000 Shuvee (G2) at Saratoga. Malathaat was expected to respond to the stretch-out to two turns and the addition of blinkers, but the 3-5 favorite succumbed by a larger margin than she did last time out at Belmont.

Moreover, Clairiere had to overcome a challenging set of circumstances in a tactical Shuvee. Thus the Steve Asmussen filly furnished more evidence that she’s improved as a four-year-old, no longer the sophomore who was consistently outpointed by Malathaat.

“It’s fun to see her physical development,” Asmussen said, recalling the difference from the spring of 2021. “We were near Malathaat in the (Kentucky) Oaks (G1) in the paddock and (could see) how much bigger Malathaat was in the Kentucky Oaks. Then we’re next to her in the paddock here today, it’s (noticeable) how comparable we are physically.”

The 3-2 Clairiere broke like a shot from the outside post 4, only to find herself stacked out wide going into the clubhouse turn. Exotic West on the rail, Crazy Beautiful, and Malathaat were all holding their positions. Rather than lose more ground, Clairiere’s rider, Joel Rosario, dropped behind them and angled over to the inside. John Velazquez on Malathaat stayed on the outside, and made sure to pocket Clairiere.

Exotic West took up the pacesetting job through an opening quarter in :24.75, as the four-runner field remained compact. Crazy Beautiful prompted through the tepid half in :49.45, then made her bid to lead by six furlongs in 1:13.91. Malathaat was urged to go after her, but favorite backers couldn’t have been filled with confidence by her workmanlike response.

Clairiere had far better body language, if not much room to maneuver. Full of run on the far turn, she was trapped behind Crazy Beautiful, and between Exotic West and Malathaat. Clairiere scrimmaged with Malathaat and had to check off Crazy Beautiful’s heels.

When Crazy Beautiful didn’t hug the rail into the stretch, the door was ajar just enough for Clairiere to find daylight. She and Rosario were game to take it. Clairiere quickened through the opening and headed Crazy Beautiful in midstretch.

Crazy Beautiful was doing her utmost to make it a three-way tussle, but bowed out as Malathaat finally began to gain some traction. Yet Clairiere continued to gallop with greater zest, and Malathaat couldn’t get near enough to offer battle.

Clairiere drove to a 1 1/2-length decision while finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.96. Malathaat pulled 1 3/4 lengths clear of Crazy Beautiful, and there was a 15 1/2-length gap back to Exotic West.

Asmussen hailed Clairiere’s effort.

“I think that it’s more proof of who she is,” her trainer said. “She’s a great filly and what a great race. Moderate fractions, they came home in good time and she’s just a very fast mare right now.

“Joel said he felt very comfortable. He said she was very willing underneath him. He loved how she felt.”

“She broke really well,” Rosario recapped. “There wasn’t a lot of room between the three-eighths and the quarter-pole, and I just had to be there because they were going really slow. She responded really well when I asked her.

“She was there for me,” her rider added. “I was always looking to see where there was room to go and it looked like it opened up inside, and I just had to go with that. She did great.”

Archrival Malathaat, ironically a fellow daughter of Curlin bred by Stonestreet, suffered the first back-to-back losses of her career.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sensed that Malathaat was uncharacteristically off her game, based on her pre-race behavior.

“I was very concerned leaving the paddock. She came in super quiet. I don’t know if she reacted adversely to the heat. She’s normally a very classy mare and not really animated, but she was dull. She seemed to stay dull on the post parade and for a horse adding first-time blinkers, she was just a very dull performance all the way around. I’ve never seen her that quiet in the paddock before.

“It was the trip we wanted. We decided to come out and show some initiative, but he (Velazquez) had to hustle her even to do that. And then we were hoping Joel (Rosario) would tuck in – we were in exactly the spot we wanted to be in; Johnny just said she put in one-tenth of her normal effort.”

Velazquez noted that Malathaat didn’t have the required gears on the day.

“I tried to hold the horse (Clairiere) in there, she’s the horse to beat,” Velazquez said. “I tried to hold it in…but I didn’t have enough down the lane.

“We thought she would be more aggressive (in the blinkers), but she was really relaxed. She just didn’t come with any run.”

In contrast, Crazy Beautiful ran as well as she possibly could have in third.

“One of the best races she’s ever run in her career,” trainer Ken McPeek said, “and unfortunately there were two very good fillies in front of her.

“I loved (how game she was). (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) did a great job. I mean, that was a good run out of her. It’s just unfortunate that race came up that tough and those are two special fillies in front of her.”

Clairiere boosted her bankroll to $1,909,592 from her 14-6-4-2 line. The winner of the 2021 Cotillion (G1) and Rachel Alexandra (G2), the bay placed in last season’s Alabama (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G2), and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), as well as the 2020 Golden Rod (G2) as a juvenile. She’s never finished worse than fourth, rounding out the superfecta in both the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Clairiere’s excellent second to Letruska in the April 23 Apple Blossom (G1) was an encouraging sign, and she’s built upon that in the Phipps and Shuvee.

Asmussen credited Stonestreet’s Ian Brennan for his role in preparing Clairiere to return to the track at four.

“She kept excellent company from fall of her two-year-old year and her whole three-year-old year. We sent her down to Stonestreet in Ocala to Ian Brennan off a fourth by three-quarters of a length in the (Breeders’ Cup) Distaff. She got a little break. She went back in training down there and she came back in breezing more impressively than when she finished her three-year-old year. I think her races have shown that.”

Plans call for Clairiere to advance to the Aug. 27 Personal Ensign (G1) at the Spa, where she will try to emulate her dam’s double. She’s out of $2 million-earner Cavorting, a Bernardini mare who captured both the Phipps and Personal Ensign in 2016.

“The Personal Ensign was the reason to be here,” Asmussen said of her Shuvee stepping stone. “She ran two solid races last year at Saratoga, and we expect better this year.”