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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Beach Haven Thoroughbreds’ Maracuja, at 14/1 the longest shot in the four-horse field, battled gamely in the stretch to nip the 1/5 favorite Malathaat and spring the upset in Saturday’s $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga.
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The undefeated Malathaat and jockey John Velazquez sprung from the rail and went straight to the lead, but Maracuja stayed close to her hip around the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch.
Midway down the backstretch, Clairiere ranged up to challenge three-wide; Santana Jr. responded by dropping out of the mix and allowing Clairiere to put in work on Malathaat.
Tipping out to challenge three-wide at the top of the stretch, the Rob Atras trainee re-joined the fight at the 1/4 pole, a fight that soon became two when Clairiere began weakening halfway home.
Maracuja and Malathaat fought gamely in deep stretch, but Maracuja inched ahead in the shadow of the wire to win the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route by a head in 1:49.29.
“The trip was perfect. She broke really well today,” said Santana Jr. “She was running comfortably. Rob liked the filly a lot and I was happy with her. There wasn’t much pressure in this race. He told me, ‘Just do what you have to do’ and we took the victory today. I had some pressure on the side from the 4 (Clairiere) and I just let my filly take a deep breath. As soon as I took her back out, she came rolling. She ran a great race today.”
Suffering defeat for the first time, Malathaat finished 5 3/4 lengths clear of Clairiere. An eased Rockpaperscissors completed the order of finish in the field of 3-year-old fillies.
“You have to play the cards you’re dealt. She was doing great,” Velazquez said. “She was comfortable in what she was doing, but she had to fight the whole way around and obviously set it up for somebody else. She’s a great horse and you can’t take that away from her.”
Maracuja’s win was the second of her career and came in her first start since finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), won by Malathaat. The Honor Code filly, purchased for $200,000 as a yearling, has now bankrolled $407,100 to go with a 6-2-2-1 record.
“She was very good going into the Oaks, she just broke a little flat-footed and got shuffled back in the turn,” said Atras, who won his third career graded stakes and first Grade 1 event. “She really didn’t get a great trip that day and it wasn’t a true showing of her. She’s obviously improved a lot the past few months.”
Maracuja returned $31.40 to win and $6 to place. Malathaat brought back $2.10 to place. There was no show betting.
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