SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Graded stakes veteran Curalina overtook Carrumba at the top of the stretch and pulled away for a convincing 9 1/4-length victory in Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee for fillies and mares 3-year-olds-and-up at Saratoga Race Course.
The Todd Pletcher-trained 4-year-old hit the wire in 1:49.85 on the sealed main track over 1 1/8 miles for her second graded stakes win this year, having captured the Grade 1 La Troienne on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ chestnut filly made her eighth consecutive graded stakes start and improved to 6-2-2 in 11 career races. Pletcher won the Shuvee for the fourth time and second straight after winning last year’s edition with Stopchargingmaria.
“I think [Curalina] is a little bit of an underrated filly,” Pletcher said. “Her record’s quite good and I think she gets penalized a little bit for getting put up on a DQ last year [in the Coaching Club American Oaks]. She was third in the Breeders’ Cup. Her first race back this year [La Troienne win] was really good. She’s a good filly and I think she’s getting better.”
The four-horse field featured a rematch between the Shug McGaughey-trained Carrumba and Cualina, who finished third and fourth last out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 11 at Belmont Park.
Carrumba jockey Jose Ortiz set the pace early, guiding the Grade 3 Top Flight Invitational Handicap winner to the front from the inside in setting fractions of 24.28, 48.59 and 1:12.75 seconds.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez saw Curalina respond to encouragement around the turn, taking command straightening for home and coaxing a five-length lead at the top of the stretch before gaining even greater separation at the wire.
“It worked out pretty good. The only speed was Carrumba and myself, so I wanted to make sure that she didn’t get away with an easy lead there. I stuck with her the whole way around. When I asked my horse, she responded very well,” Velazquez said. “My horse had only run once in the mud first time out and I wasn’t sure. It’s just about if the horse likes it or not. Obviously, it didn’t bother her.”
Added Pletcher: “”On paper it looked like kind of a match race. It looked like Carrumba loves an off track, so we didn’t want to let her get away. Assuming that Jose was going to go a little bit from the rail, [Johnny] decided when he wanted to turn the pressure up. It looked like when he did he had a lot of horse.”
Curalina, the 4-5 favorite, paid $3.80 on a $2 win wager and improved her career earnings to $1,375,940.
Carrumba finished 3 ¾ lengths ahead of Sweetgrass for second. McGaughey, a Hall of Famer, has seen the Phipps Stables’ 4-year-old finish in the money in each of her 10 career starts, including four wins and five second-place finishes.
Sweetgrass, trained by Ian Wilkes, made her 2016 graded stakes debut. John Servis’ Joint Return, owned by Main Line Racing Stables, completed the order of finish.
The Shuvee, which completed its 40th running, is named in honor of the 1975 Hall of Fame inductee who was a two-time Eclipse Award winner as champion older mare. Shuvee won New York’s Filly Triple Crown and is the only filly to beat colts in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, a feat she accomplished twice, in 1970 and 1971.