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2023 Smart N Fancy Stakes Preview | Roses For Debra Streaks Into Saratoga For Friday Race
Roses For Debra (Gary Johnson/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Smart N Fancy Stakes Preview | Roses For Debra Streaks Into Saratoga For Friday Race

John O’Meara’s Roses for Debra seeks a fourth consecutive triumph in Friday’s $150,000 Smart N Fancy, a 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint for older fillies and mares, at Saratoga Race Course.

The Smart N Fancy is slated as Race 3 on Friday’s 10-race program, which also features the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign in Race 9. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.  

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Trained by Christophe Clement, Roses for Debra made the grade last out in the 5 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Caress, where she stalked the pace set by returning rival Bubble Rock before surging by in the stretch to a 2 1/4-length victory under Irad Ortiz, Jr. The winning effort garnered a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.

“She was very impressive and she’s doing great. She’s a good filly and I’m very excited to run her back,” Clement said.

Roses for Debra made her first five starts for trainer Michelle Brafford, winning three sprints on the Presque Isle synthetic including the Malvern Rose against fellow Pennsylvania-breds last July. The 4-year-old daughter of Liam’s Map has now won 6-of-8 starts and is a perfect 3-for-3 since being switched to turf under Clement’s conditioning.

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The gray has breezed back twice since her last effort, most recently covering a half-mile over the Oklahoma training track in 48.55 seconds on August 14.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Blackstone Farm, Roses for Debra sold for $25,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She boasts a record of 8-6-1-0 with $323,930 in career earnings.

Ortiz, Jr. the Spa’s leading rider, maintains the mount from post 5.

Shortleaf Stable’s graded stakes winning Kentucky homebred Bubble Rock, trained by Brad Cox, paved the way in the Grade 3 Caress before fading to third in deep stretch. The performance was reminiscent of her prior outing in the six-furlong Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 9 at Belmont Park, where she led the whole way before being nailed at the wire by returning foe Poppy Flower.

“She always tries hard, but she’s very tough on herself. She likes to train and does a little more than need be at times, but she’s a graded stakes-winner at two and three, and now a stakes-winner at four. Overall, she’s been very consistent from the start,” Cox said.

Bubble Rock has hit the board in all four starts of her current campaign, highlighted by a half-length score in the six-furlong License Fee in May at Belmont Park, utilizing off-the-pace tactics to hold off the late kick of Poppy Flower. 

The 4-year-old More than Ready filly captured the Grade 3 Matron in October 2021 at Belmont Park and added the Grade 3 Mrs. Revere to her ledger in November at Churchill.

She has worked twice on the dirt training track at Belmont since her last effort, breezing four furlongs in 48 seconds flat on August 19.

“She loves Belmont and trains a lot on the pony track there with the synthetic,” said Cox. “She seems to hold her weight well and maintain well training over that surface. I’m happy with her since her last run and we’ll see if she can get the job done.”

Joel Rosario will be in the irons from post 2.

Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ aforementioned graded winner Poppy Flower, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is known to come running late, a move she attempted in the Caress but couldn’t quite pull off from the five path when fourth defeated 2 1/2-lengths. Her prior Intercontinental triumph garnered a career high 92 Beyer.

The 4-year-old Lea chestnut is 4-1-2-0 sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs at the Spa, notably winning last summer’s Galway coming from eighth in the nine-horse field.

Jose Ortiz will retain the mount from post 4.

R. Larry Johnson’s stakes winner Can’t Buy Love [post 1, John Velazquez] has hit the board in all four starts this year for trainer Michael Trombetta, but still seeks a trip to the winner’s circle, running into traffic last time out for third in the Incredible Revenge at Monmouth and before that second in the Andy Guest at Colonial Downs. The efforts received lifetime high 85 and 86 Beyers, respectively.

Trombetta said a contested pace would benefit the bay’s late-running style.

“The speed in there could give her a target to run at,” Trombetta said. “I don’t think we can change the way she likes to run.”

By Twirling Candy and out of Kitten’s Joy mare Pay the Kitten, Can’t Buy Love won at first asking going five furlongs over the Gulfstream turf in 2020 and has a record of 27-5-4-6 with $332,112 in earnings.

Rounding out the field are M and W Stables’ three-time stakes winner Train to Artemus for conditioner Kelly Breen [post 3, Junior Alvarado]; and four-time winner Talkin Tipsy for trainer and co-owner James Gulick [post 6, Luis Saez].

Self Isolation and Bluefield are entered for the main track only.