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2023 Test Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | At Saratoga, Pretty Mischievous Aims At 3rd Straight Grade 1
Pretty Mischievous (Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Test Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | At Saratoga, Pretty Mischievous Aims At 3rd Straight Grade 1

Dr. Miranda previews the 2023 Test Stakes (G1) from Saratoga, then gives her top picks & long shots. The Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Acorn Stakes (G1) champion Pretty Mischievous sets her sights on winning her 3rd straight race at horse racing’s highest level.

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The press release:

Godolphin’s Kentucky homebred Pretty Mischievous vies for sovereignty atop the sophomore filly division while cutting back in distance in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Test, a seven-furlong main track sprint for 3-year-old fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The Test, carded as Race 8, is one of five stakes slated for Saturday’s lucrative 12-race card, which is led by the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney in Race 10, along with the Grade 1, $600,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational in Race 9, the Grade 3, $300,000 Troy in Race 6, and the $135,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure in Race 7. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.

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Pretty Mischievous enters the Test on the heels of back-to-back Grade 1 scores for conditioner Brendan Walsh, beginning with a tenacious win in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs. There, she pounced from 2 1/4 lengths off the pace under regular pilot Tyler Gaffalione to claim the lead at the top of the stretch and gamely fend of the late rush of Gambling Girl by a neck.

The Test will be Pretty Mischievous’ first start at a sprint distance since scoring her first triumph against winners in a seven-furlong optional claiming contest in October at Churchill. Walsh said he looks forward to the pace scenario his filly is likely to get in an extended sprint and that the Test’s timing proved favorable over a start in the nine-furlong Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, which was run on July 22.

“We’re a little more comfortable going to the Test,” said Walsh. “It’s a seven-eighths that takes getting, and they will roll in it. It’s more like a one-turn mile anywhere else, plus it gives us a little more time.”

The daughter of Into Mischief was last seen posting a nearly identical performance to the Oaks in the Grade 1 Acorn presented by Great Jones Distilling Co. on June 9 at Belmont Park, a 1 1/16-mile test conducted around one turn. She stalked and pounced to the lead at the top of the lane once again under Gaffalione, but faced a strong bid from returning foe Dorth Vader in the stretch and held on by a head in a dramatic final sixteenth. That effort garnered a career-high 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

Pretty Mischievous, who earned her way into the Oaks starting gate with a win in the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra and runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks, has enjoyed a lighter training regime since the Acorn. She has breezed four times since, including a half-mile move in 49.70 seconds on June 29. Walsh said the talented bay has flourished in the weeks since the Acorn.

“Since we started running her last year, she missed one race at the Fair Grounds over the winter but she’s run pretty much every four or five weeks since,” said Walsh. “Even though she’s taken her racing well, I had it in mind I wouldn’t mind giving her a couple weeks after the Acorn and back off her and jog her for 10 days. We did that and I think she’s really benefitted from it.”

Gaffalione retains the mount from the inside post.

August Dawn Farm’s undefeated New York-bred Maple Leaf Mel looms large after an easy last-out score in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 8 at Belmont Park in her first outing for her conditioner and namesake Melanie Giddings.

Bred by Joe Fafone, the daughter of Cross Traffic began her career with trainer Jeremiah Englehart, whom Giddings previously worked as an assistant for, and graduated on debut last August at the Spa with an eye-catching five-length score against fellow state-breds. She followed with a 3 1/2-length romp in the Seeking the Ante before a seven-month respite that ended with a triumphant return in the state-bred East View, taking the six-furlong sprint by 7 3/4 lengths in March at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Maple Leaf Mel made her graded debut in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness on May 19 at Pimlico Race Course and passed her first test outside of state-bred company with flying colors, notching a 2 1/2-length win under returning rider Joel Rosario. She returned seven weeks later to land a similar score in the Victory Ride, coasting home a 2 1/2-length winner after utilizing her usual pacesetting tactics.

Giddings, who saddles her first Grade 1 contender, said the Victory Ride proved to her just how classy Maple Leaf Mel is.

“It just gives you more confidence every time you run her that as the competition has gotten steeper, she does it easily. It makes you feel good going into a race like this,” said Giddings.

Maple Leaf Mel has been on the lead through every point of call in her perfect five-race career, but Giddings said she is confident the grey filly can handle stronger pace pressure from rivals like fellow frontrunner Munnys Gold.

“I’m not really worried about it. I think she’s just found herself on the lead because she just has natural speed,” Giddings said. “If Joel has to sit off of somebody, he could, no problem.”

Giddings expressed gratitude for the opportunity to saddle a top contender in a Grade 1 just eight months after going out on her own.

“I feel good and I’m not nervous at all. I’m very grateful, especially at this point in my career and haven’t even been training for a year,” said Giddings. “I’m very fortunate to have a horse like this.”

Rosario has the call from post 8.

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John Ropes’ graded stakes-winning homebred Dorth Vader [post 6, John Velazquez] will face a rematch with Pretty Mischievous after coming up a head shy in the Acorn with a strong late rally under returning Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez for trainer George Weaver.

The daughter of Girvin made the grade in March when taking the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks for previous conditioner Michael Yates, awarding her enough points for a spot in the Kentucky Oaks starting gate. She finished a prominent fifth in the Oaks in her last start for Yates before entering Weaver’s barn and making her first start for her new conditioner in the Acorn.

In addition to the Gulfstream Park Oaks, Dorth Vader boasts stakes coups in the Florida-bred Juvenile Fillies Sprint in October at Gulfstream and in the open-company Sandpiper in December at Tampa Bay Downs. She is in search of her first victory outside the Sunshine State as she makes her 11th lifetime outing.

Robert and Lawana Low’s Munnys Gold [post 7, Irad Ortiz, Jr.] was last seen finishing a pacesetting fourth in the Acorn, defeated 4 1/2 lengths by Pretty Mischievous after setting moderate fractions under Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Munnings garnered a field-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure for an eye-catching 17 1/4-length romp in the Sophomore Fillies against fellow Florida-breds when making her stakes debut in March at Gulfstream Park. The dark bay filly dazzled on debut last June at Monmouth Park when earning a 101 Beyer for a 14 1/2-length score ahead of a seven-month layoff.

The Acorn was the longest race of Munnys Gold’s career after making her first four outings at sprint distances. Pletcher said a return to seven furlongs should be perfect for the speedy filly.

“She’s doing well,” said Pletcher. “We were experimenting and felt like if we were going to do it [stretch out], the Acorn was the time to do it. It gave her plenty of time to the Test if it didn’t work out. I think it proved to be a little far for her, so I’m looking forward to getting her back to seven furlongs. She’s fast and a little headstrong, so it’s kind of give and take with her.”

A $300,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale, Munnys Gold is out of the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Haraawa. She is a direct maternal descendant of dual Champion filly Vagrancy, as well as influential broodmare Natasha.

Completing the field are:

  • Dual-winning Michael McCarthy trainee Clearly Unhinged [post 2, Javier Castellano]
  • Stakes-winner Tappin Josie [post 3, Kevin Gomez] for trainer Horacio De Paz
  • Stakes-placed Jersey Pearl [post 4, Luis Saez], a last-out 9 1/2-length allowance winner at Ellis Park for conditioner Darrin Miller
  • Graded stakes-placed Interpolate [post 5, Flavien Prat] for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown