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Check out our predictions and odds for the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga!
Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
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Fresh off an impressive return victory, Nest looks to continue her Saratoga domination when she headlines a field of six older females entered in Friday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Curlin was the champion 3-year-old filly in the nation last year. She returned in fine fettle last month with a facile score over her top rival Clairiere in the Grade 2 Shuvee at Saratoga.
A winner of 8-of-12 lifetime, Nest has won six graded stakes, including a pair of Grade 1 events at Saratoga last summer. Overall, she is perfect in three starts at the Upstate New York Oval.
Chief among her challengers in the 9-furlong feature will be the Steve Asmussen-trained Clairiere.
A winner of better than $3.1 million in her career, the 5-year-old bay mare had won two straight Grade 1 races before finishing 2 1/4-lengths behind Nest in the Shuvee.
Idiomatic should be the third choice in Friday’s $500,000 feature. The Juddmonte homebred has won five of her last six, including the Grade 3 Shawnee and the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap in her last two.
Not to be forgotten in the field of six is last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath. The four-time stakes winner disappointed last time when fifth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps.
A champion last year, this daughter of Curlin could not have gotten off to a better start as an older horse than she did last month in the Shuvee. Taking advantage of her superior tactical speed, she never let Clairiere get close and cruised to victory.
A better, more mature version of Nest this year than she was in 2022 is a scary proposition for her opposition. She also appears to love the track and surroundings at Saratoga, where she has been dominant in three graded stakes wins.
This is the strongest field yet for an older female race in 2023, but if she turns in another performance like her first three over the track, she will be very tough to beat. She is the top pick.
The classy mare by Curlin has been a stalwart among the female set ever since winning her career debut nearly three years ago. Trained by Steve Asmussen, her finishing kick can often be irresistible in the closing stages.
Having beaten Nest in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and having already won two Grade 1 races this year, it would be no surprise to see her turn the tables here. Having said that, the track seems to be more favorable to her rival, plus she has a little bit more early speed.
Clairiere is always a threat with her strong late run, but of the two favorites, I do like her younger rival better in this one.
Trained by Brad Cox, this daughter of Curlin did not race much before becoming an older horse, but as a 4-year-old she has really developed into a nice runner with five wins in six starts this year.
With some good tactical speed, she is likely to be ahead of the favorites early here and that could play to her advantage. In her last two, both graded stakes wins, she showed she can be game down the lane.
My feeling is that the pressure applied by Secret Oath, Nest, and finally Clairiere will eventually prove too much, but it would be no surprise to see her run another solid performance.
The winner of last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks has only won one race since then. Having said that, she has run in big race after big race and has performed well in several of them.
She also looks better with a bit of time between races and she will get that here, with 11 weeks since her last race. That effort, a fifth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, was poor, but her three races before that were all good.
If she runs her best on Friday, she is in with a shot. Still, she was no match for Nest in two tries last summer at Saratoga, and it would be a surprise if she could turn the tables here.
A two-time stakes winner last year, this 4-year-old daughter of Gun Runner earned her first victory of this year with a hard-fought win over a classy allowance field at Saratoga last month.
While the win over the track should set her up nicely for Friday, she now moves into Grade 1 company. In her two attempts against Idiomatic and Secret Oath earlier this year, she was no match.
She is a nice filly who has won half of her 12 career starts, but the competition will likely prove a bit too much for her here.
The good news for the rank outsider of the field is that she does come off a nice win in her most recent race. She won easily and did it in good time.
Unfortunately, the victory came against the allowance company at Hawthorne. The step up from that to Friday’s Personal Ensign is a massive one.
Veteran trainer Wayne Catalano must feel she is doing very well to attempt it, but the 5-year-old Outwork mare simply looks overmatched against the best older females in the nation.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Email: [email protected]
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