(Clairiere / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
From the NYRA Media Team:
Stonestreet Stables’ Kentucky homebred Clairiere returns to defend her title in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee, a nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the regally-bred Clairiere enters from Grade 1-wins traveling 1 1/16-miles in the Apple Blossom Handicap in April at Oaklawn Park and the Ogden Phipps in June at Belmont Park.
The late-running 5-year-old Curlin mare bested last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winner Secret Oath by a neck in the Apple Blossom and returned to defeat Grade 1-winner Search Results last out by a half-length in the Ogden Phipps with Grade 1-winner Played Hard in third.
“She’s as good as it gets,” Asmussen said. “We’ve got two Grade 1s in a row in extremely dramatic fashion and, if anything, it seems it’s going to be the same way this time – very few participants with a soft pace, but she still can do it.”
Asmussen said he relishes the opportunity to see his horses compete at the highest level at Saratoga and to have them cheered on and adored by the knowledgeable crowd.
“You just want people to like them as much as you do, and that’s one of the greatest parts about Saratoga is how much the fans appreciate these horses and this level of horse,” Asmussen said. “We are blessed with unbelievable opportunities and this is the level these horses deserve. I am extremely proud of their consistency and longevity.”
Clairiere sports a ledger of 19-8-5-3 for purse earnings in excess of $3.1 million, including Grade 1-wins in the 2021 Cotillion at Parx and last year’s Ogden Phipps at Belmont. She is out of the three-time Grade 1-winning Bernardini mare Cavorting, who banked more than $2 million through a record of 13-8-1-1.
“I think she’s who she’s supposed to be for a Curlin out of Cavorting,” Asmussen said. “I thought it was extremely significant that she went by her mother in earnings and what an elite level that is and for Stonestreet and their breeding program to have her. The only thing better than Cavorting is her daughter, and that’s very special.”
Joel Rosario, who has won the last three runnings of this event, retains the mount from the outermost post 4 aboard Clairiere, who is assigned a field-high 124 pounds.
Repole Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and Michael House’s reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Nest [post 2, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 122 pounds] will make her seasonal debut for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Curlin bay won a trio of Grade 1s last year, taking the Ashland at Keeneland and the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama at the Spa.
Pletcher was initially targeting the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in June at Belmont Park for Nest’s 4-year-old debut, but said he’s hopeful she can maintain her perfect record over the Spa main track.
“She’s doing very well,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, we’re giving up some recency to some really nice fillies, but it’s kind of the hand we were dealt when she got sick when she first shipped in. We got behind schedule, and hopefully we can run well here.”
Nest has posted 10 works dating to May 13 at Belmont Park, including a half-mile effort in 50 seconds flat in company over the Oklahoma dirt training track on July 16 in which the talented bay galloped out impressively.
“It was a good work and a nice, strong gallop out,” Pletcher said. “I feel like we’ve got a good foundation into her, but there’s no substitute for having some races under your belt.”
Nest has won 7-of-11 starts, taking the Grade 2 Demoiselle as a juvenile at Aqueduct Racetrack ahead of her memorable sophomore season that included a 9 3/4-length romp in the Grade 2 Beldame at Belmont at the Big A.
Pletcher said Nest, who completed her 3-year-old year with a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Keeneland, continues to show her good form.
“I think the main thing is she’s filled out a bit and maybe is carrying a little more condition than last year. You just want them to stay there [in that good form],” Pletcher said.
Pletcher has won the Shuvee on four occasions, scoring with Awesome Maria , Authenticity , Stopchargingmaria  and Curalina . A win would see him tie the record of five Shuvee scores held by the late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens.
Trainer Philip Bauer was expected to be represented by Rigney Racing’s Grade 1 La Troienne-winner Played Hard, but had to call an audible when the 5-year-old Into Mischief mare spiked a temperature this week.
“She had a little temperature and when you compete against those type of horses, you have to be at your best. We’ll back up and punt from here and hit the reset button,” Bauer said. “She had trained great all week. It’s new surroundings up here and a new environment and she caught a little bug, but I think we’ll be alright moving forward. We’ll just have to miss this dance.”
Bauer will instead send out Rigney Racing’s stakes-placed Skratch Kat [post 1, Tyler Gaffalione, 118 pounds], who sports a ledger of 11-2-3-1.
“It’s an opportunity to get some graded black type,” Bauer said. “We’re swinging to try and hit a home run with our eyes closed, but stranger things have happened. I don’t think we can beat the two big ones in there but it’s horse racing and anything can happen.”
Skratch Kat, by Arrogate, is out of the multiple graded stakes-placed Smart Strike mare Wave Theory.
Rounding out the field is stakes-placed Pistol Liz Ablazen [post 3, Kendrick Carmouche, 118 pounds], who boasts a record of 11-3-4-2 for trainer Butch Reid, Jr.
The 4-year-old Daredevil filly finished third in the 1 1/16-mile Nellie Morse in February at Laurel Park and enters from a 5 1/2-length score in a one-mile and 70-yard optional-claiming event on June 21 at Parx.
The Shuvee is slated as Race 4 on Sunday’s 10-race card. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present live coverage and analysis of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule/.