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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – There’s no way around it, this year’s $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) came up a bit disappointing, thanks to Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Malathaat headlining the field of just four runners.
Held as race 5 on Saturday’s Saratoga card (rather than made the feature) because of the small field, the CCA Oaks is still a Grade 1 race at Saratoga and thus carries considerable weight. Heck, 3 of the last 4 champion 3-year-old fillies won this!
Here is the good news: Malathaat is a mammoth of a filly who’s worth the price of admission alone. She’s been flawless on the race track, winning the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland in her 2021 other start. She drew post 1 with regular rider John Velazquez up.
Her biggest challenger on paper is the Steve Asmussen-trained Clairiere, last seen finishing third in the Mother Goose Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. Before that, she finished a late-running fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. She’ll break from post 4 in this event with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons
Maracuja adds intrigue into the race, breaking from post 2 with Ricardo Santana Jr. up for the mount. After breaking her maiden 3 starts back, she was second in the Gazelle Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct (won by Kentucky Oaks runner-up Search Results) before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks.
The full field from the rail out (don’t blink or you’ll miss it): Malathaat, Maracuja, Rockpaperscissors, and Clairiere.
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#1 Malathaat – This seems about as straightforward as it gets. So long as Malathaat shows up with her normal effort, this should be no more than a paid workout for the top horse in her division. Many of the potential upset prospects opted to not run against her, which speaks to her talent level. She should use this as a nice building block to the Alabama Stakes (G1) later on this meet.
“She’s a very gifted filly,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won the race a record 7 times. “She’s just been perfect so far and she’s a pleasure to train, and just does everything right. When you have one that’s undefeated you just want to keep that intact and hope that everything goes smoothly and that she’s able to show her capabilities once more.”
None – Malathaat looks like a clear single against this group.
#4 Clairiere – This classy filly hasn’t shown an ability to beat the top horses in this class, despite several tries. She is the logical horse to play underneath in this spot, and she might even be the most likely upsetter, but it’s hard to see her turning the tables on Malathaat here or anywhere.
#2 Maracuja – She wasn’t horrible in her stakes attempts, losing to the top horses in the class, so if we see some improvement here, then she’ll have a shot. If you want to play a longer price, then this horse makes a little bit of sense. Look for Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride her aggressively.
“In the Oaks, she broke a little flat footed, but we’re hoping she breaks sharper and won’t be too far back in a shorter field,” said trainer Rob Atras. “She was down on the inside and going into the first turn she got shuffled back. She made a good run late and I was happy with the performance. She just needs to break sharper and get in a more tactical position.”
#3 Rockpaperscissors – She’s won 2 in a row, including an allowance at Indiana Grand last time out. Both races were solid, but now she must move up in class in a big way, which might be too much for her to handle.
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