July 18, 2024

Clairiere looks to extend streak in Personal Ensign; Jackie’s Warrior, Jack Christopher top Grade 1 sprints

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

Personal Ensign S. (G1) — Saratoga Race 9 (4:32 p.m. ET)

The nation’s top older dirt mares certainly aren’t ducking each other on the way to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). Saturday’s $600,000 Personal Ensign S. (G1) at Saratoga serves as a third round battle between Clairiere and Malathaat, while defending champion Letruska looks to bounce back from a sub-par effort against that pair earlier this summer.

Clairiere has taken both prior meetings this season against Malathaat, winning the June 11 Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont by a head and the July 24 Shuvee (G2) at Saratoga by 1 1/2 lengths. However, trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t feel Malathaat’s effort in the Shuvee was representative.

“I don’t think she reacted well to the heat that day. That’s the first time I felt like she didn’t handle the conditions,” Pletcher said. “She was very quiet in the paddock and didn’t seem herself. Johnny (Velazquez) commented that she was kind of lethargic in the post parade. She ran, but I don’t feel that she ran to her capabilities.”

Letruska, the 2021 Personal Ensign winner, also contested the Ogden Phipps, but was a spent force by the turn for home after setting a blistering pace and wound up trailing the field by 35 lengths. That was a reversal in form from the April 23 Apple Blossom H. (G1), when Letruska held off Clairiere by 1 1/4 lengths after setting a more moderate tempo.

Search Results, who arguably ran the finest race in the Ogden Phipps when finishing third by 2 1/4 lengths after bidding into that punishing pace, followed up with a three-length win in the Molly Pitcher (G2). She won the Gazelle (G3) and finished second to Malathaat by a neck in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) last year in her only prior attempts over nine furlongs, though some might still consider her more capable around one turn at the highest level.

The field is rounded out by multiple graded stakes winner Crazy Beautiful, third last out in the Shuvee.

Forego S. (G1) — Race 5 (1:55 p.m. ET)

Reigning champion sprinter Jackie’s Warrior will be an odds-on choice to win his fifth straight stakes this season in the $600,000 Forego S. (G1) over seven furlongs. The four-year-old, who has never lost at Saratoga, was not seriously threatened last out in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1), which followed earlier scores in the True North (G2), Churchill Downs (G1), and Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3).

The field of seven also includes Kneedeepinsnow, a clear second in the six-furlong Vanderbilt, and the streaking Cody’s Wish, whose recent victories over a mile include the Westchester (G3) at Belmont Park and Hanshin S. at Churchill Downs.

H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) — Race 8 (3:52 p.m. ET)

Another short price figures to be had on Jack Christopher, who shortens up to seven furlongs in the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) for three-year-olds.

A blowout winner of his first four starts, including the Champagne (G1), Pat Day Mile (G2), and Woody Stephens (G1), Jack Christopher didn’t see out the 1 1/8 miles of the Haskell (G1) last time, though he only missed by two lengths to the track record-setting Cyberknife.

In addition to the favorite, trainer Chad Brown also saddles Accretive, who missed by a neck to Gunite in the July 31 Amsterdam (G2) in only his second career start. Gunite has won two of three starts over the Saratoga strip, the biggest being the 2021 Hopeful (G1).

Another intriguing entry is Actuator, who enters off a victory in the Indiana Derby (G3) over Best Actor, easy winner of Tuesday’s Smarty Jones (G3) at Parx.