BY MIKE MacADAM/The Leader-Herald
SARATOGA SPRINGS — For the second time in four days, a filly will put a 2-for-2 record at Saratoga Race Course on the line in a graded stakes.
In both instances, that segment of their respective resumes led to an Eclipse Award.
Nest defeated Clairiere in the Grade II Shuvee on Sunday, after sweeping the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama last year on the way to the 3-year-old filly championship.
It’s been awhile since Echo Zulu has run at Saratoga, but she won a maiden race and the Grade I Spinaway here in 2021, then closed out a 4-for-4 season overall with wins in the Frizette and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to earn the Eclipse for 2-year-old fillies.
In her first start at Saratoga in almost two years, Echo Zulu is the 4-5 morning-line favorite for Wednesday’s Grade II Honorable Miss at six furlongs on the main track.
Trainer Steve Asmussen would like to pull off another Saratoga double for his 4-year-old daughter of Gun Runner with a sweep of the Honorable Miss and Grade I Ballerina on Travers Day Aug. 26 before moving on to the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.
She was second to Goodnight Olive in that race in November, then kicked off her 2023 campaign with an easy win in the Grade III Winning Colors at Churchill Downs on May 29.
Besides the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, Echo Zulu’s only other career loss from nine starts was a fourth behind Secret Oath, Nest and Desert Dawn in the Kentucky Oaks last year, after which Asmussen switched her back to sprints.
“I think we’re right where we want to be with her,” Asmussen told the New York Racing Association. “Obviously, the Breeders’ Cup is the major target for her. We’re expecting two runs for her here and then the Breeders’ Cup. She’s formidable, to say the least.”
Among Echo Zulu’s three rivals in the Honorable Miss is the ultra-consistent Frank’s Rockette, who finished second by a half-length to Kimari in this race last year.
Frank’s Rockette is 2-for-2 this season, but hasn’t raced since April 29.
DERBY WINNER MAGE ARRIVES
Kentucky Derby winner Mage arrived at Saratoga on Monday after finishing second to Geaux Rocket Ride in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
Mage is pointed toward the Travers, and some of the colts he’ll be facing, including Belmont Stakes winner Arcangelo, will be running at Saratoga on Saturday in the Jim Dandy.
Trainer Richard Mandella told the Daily Racing Form that Geaux Rocket Ride will skip the Travers because he prefers not to ship his colt cross-country from California a second time, and he’s not sure if Geaux Rocket Ride would like Saratoga’s dirt surface.
Mandela is considering sending Geaux Rocket Ride against older horses in the Sept. 2 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
ELITE POWER WORKS
Champion male sprinter Elite Power breezed four furlongs in 51 1-5 on the Oklahoma Training Track on Sunday in preparation for the Grade I A.G. Vanderbilt on Saturday.
“That’s him by himself,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He’s run well off those kind of works right before races. He did that in the Saudi. He was working 51 before he won the Breeders’ Cup. He wouldn’t wow anyone when he’s working by himself.”
Elite Power’s seven-race winning streak includes the True North on Belmont Day, the $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint on Saudi Cup Day and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November.
Pro football Hall of Famer Bill Parcells’ horses had a productive weekend.
Not only did he make the winner’s circle in the last race on Sunday when Three Girls won a maiden claimer (she was claimed out of the race), but his undefeated filly sprinter, Maple Leaf Mel, posted a useful breeze over a muddy track on Friday in preparation for the Grade I Test on Whitney Day Aug. 5.
“It went very good,” said trainer Melanie Giddings, for whom Maple Leaf Mel is named. “We didn’t do anything special and kept it simple. The track was a little wet, but it was tight enough. I like the surface here.”
The New York-bred is 5-for-5 after winning the Grade IIII Victory Ride at Belmont Park on July 8.
Through the first nine days of racing, Linda Rice leads all trainers with 10 wins, to nine for Chad Brown and eight for Todd Pletcher, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. has a commanding lead in the jockey standings, having won 21 races for a gap of 12 down to Luis Saez with nine.
With 31 racing days left, that puts Ortiz on pace to crush Ramon Dominguez’s meet record of 68 set in 2012.
Dominguez had two six-win days that year to become the second jockey to win that many on a single Spa card, after John Velazquez did it in 2001. With his brother, Jose, on the shelf with bruised ribs this weekend and many of the top Saratoga jockeys at Monmouth Park on Saturday for Haskell Day, Irad Ortiz won four of the first six, but got just one more over the rest of the 11-race Saturday card.
Jose Ortiz is planning to ride Wednesday’s card after getting banged up in a spill on Friday.
Contact Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.