Kareena (Medaglia d’Oro) and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. win the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has already annexed one of the most important races for fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course this year, saddling Cavorting to victory in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign. Sunday, the trainer will have not one but three chances to add another when he sends out Kareena, Takrees and Coniah to face seven other 3-year-old fillies in the Grade 2, $ 300,000 Prioress.
Unlike Cavorting, who already was a Grade 1 winner when she won last year’s Prioress, McLaughlin’s threesome will be going in search of their first graded stakes win in the six-furlong sprint.
“The reason we entered three is that it’s a really prestigious race,” said McLaughlin. “It’s one of the last straight 3-year-old filly sprints. We don’t have any black type on two of the three, and it’s important for Kareena and Takrees. Coniah we just got from California for a new owner [James McKenney], who wanted to run in the race. I said ‘sure.’
“I don’t know if he knew I was running two others,” he added with a laugh. “They’re all different owners, so we’re trying to win the race with whoever might win it. We’ll be happy first, second or third. Or we’ll be like Chad [Brown], he’s been 1-2-3 in a race before. Actually, we’d like to hit with any of them.”
Godolphin Racing’s Kareena has made one appearance this summer at the Spa, having been sent off as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Test on August 6 off a 5 ½-length maiden win at Keeneland followed by a 6 ¼-length score in the Jersey Girl at Belmont Park. When the gates opened for the Test, however, the Medaglia d’Oro filly got caught up in a speed duel with Off the Tracks, blazing through an opening quarter-mile in 21.74 seconds and a half in 43.50 before tiring to finish sixth.
Takrees, who carries the colors of Shadwell Stable, was a late-closing winner of a first-level allowance on Opening Day. In her lone prior stakes start, the Daaher filly was second, beaten a neck by Lost Raven, in the Cicada over the inner track in March at Aqueduct Racetrack.
A California-bred daughter of Harlington, Coniah has made three starts as a 3-year-old, finishing second in an optional claimer in January at Santa Anita Park. She returned in July to run second in the California Governor’s Cup at Sacramento and third facing older fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardino Handicap at Del Mar.
So what’s the strategy?
“We have three top riders,” said McLaughlin. “Takrees will be at the back, not bothering anybody. Junior Alvarado will be on her [from post position 8].
“The other two we have to work out trips for,” he went on. “We don’t want to hook Off the Tracks again and go in 43. We left Javier [Castellano] on Kareena because we don’t think he’ll do it again. And Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] will be on Coniah.”
Kareena drew post position 9 while Coniah will depart from post position 1.
Grade 1 Mother Goose winner Off the Tracks, who wound up third in the Test, returns for trainer Todd Pletcher. Owned by Newtown Anner Stud Farm, the Curlin filly has been nothing but consistent since joining Pletcher’s stable in April, finishing third in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks and second in the Grade 1 Acorn as well.
Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard Off the Tracks, who drew post position 7.
Pletcher also brings back Lost Raven, most recently a front-running winner in an off-the-turf edition of the Coronation Cup on August 1. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride from post position 3.
Expected to attract considerable support is the Phil d’Amato-trained Coppa, whose gritty neck victory in the Grade 3 Victory Ride in July at Belmont extended her record to 3-for-3. Joe Talamo comes in to ride Coppa, who drew post position 6.
Rounding out the field are Jersey Girl runner-up Appealing Maggie, a front-running winner of the Miss Woodford on July 17 at Monmouth Park; the graded stakes-placed Dearest, a winner of four of her five career starts including the Azalea and Royal Palm at Gulfstream Park; Lucy N Ethel, undefeated in three starts including the Grade 3 Old Hat at Gulfstream last time out; and One True Kiss, most recently fifth in the Test.
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