SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Calumet Farm’s Vexatious survived a challenge from a formidable foe, then survived a steward’s inquiry, to spring the 9/1 upset in Saturday’s $500,000 Personal Ensign Presented by NYRA Bets Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
The Personal Ensign is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Vexatious receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Distaff at Keeneland this November.
Breaking from post 4 under Jose Lezcano, Vexatious tracked just outside of Motion Emotion heading into the clubhouse turn, with the opening 1/4-mile coming in :24.15, and :48.36 for the 1/2.
Vexatious moved up to challenge for the lead after entering the far turn and poked her head in front near the top of the stretch. Midnight Bisou, the defending champion and 1/5 favorite, soon joined her for a battle as they straightened for home.
Inside the final furlong, Vexatious drifted out slightly, forcing Midnight Bisou out as well while trying to avoid making contact. Vexatious straightened back out in the late stages and crossed a neck clear.
The Jack Sisterson trainee completed the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route in a final time of 1:48.82.
“I had a perfect trip,” Lezcano said. “My filly broke well. She was relaxed the whole way and just sitting behind the leader. I could feel (Midnight Bisou) coming and I started asking my filly. Every time the other filly came close to her, my filly dug in. I showed her to the other filly and she kept going. She kept running. We could have gone around one more time and I still would have been in front with my filly.”
Point of Honor, Motion Emotion, and Abounding Joy completed the order of finish. Bossy Bride was scratched.
Shortly after the field crossed the wire, both a jockey objection and a steward’s inquiry regarding the stretch run necessitated a closer look. Ultimately, however, the stewards opted to make no change to the original order of finish.
“When (Vexatious) came out and (Lezcano) was still hitting her left-handed, it looked like it stopped our filly’s momentum enough at that point,” said Midnight Bisou’s co-owner Jeff Bloom. “Then they came out one more time and it wasn’t massive but, to me, it looked like it was a momentum shift in a crucial point of the race.”
Vexatious’ win was her first since taking the Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in the fall of 2018. The 6-year-old Giant’s Causeway mare improved her record to 23-4-3-7 with $723,985 earned.
“We always thought she had a big win in her and all credit to the filly,” Sisterson said. “I want to say thank you to Calumet Farm and my employees for getting her in the best shape possible. We started off the year in allowance races and allowed her to improve, and she deserves it. It’s a whole team effort and I have a lot of people to thank.”
Vexatious returned $21 to win and $4.60 to place, while Midnight Bisou paid $2.10 to place. There was no show betting.