Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Joseph Graffeo, Eric Nikolaus Del Toro and Troy Johnson’s multiple graded-stakes winner Con Lima, first or second in 11 of 12 lifetime starts, can help put the exclamation point on what is sure to be an emotional weekend for trainer Todd Pletcher in Sunday’s Grade 3, $700,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks Invitational, middle jewel of NYRA’s Turf Triple series for 3-year-old fillies, is one of two grass stakes on the program, joined by the $120,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for older fillies and mares. Sunday’s card also features the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack for juvenile fillies on the main track.
In his first year of eligibility, the 54-year-old Pletcher will be inducted Friday into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, located across Union Avenue from the racetrack where he has been leading trainer 14 times including last year. Two days later he will be looking for his first win in the Saratoga Oaks, inaugurated in 2019.
Con Lima set the pace but fell a half-length short of winner Santa Barbara in the first leg of the Turf Triple series for sophomore fillies, the Grade 1, 1 ¼-mile Belmont Oaks Invitational July 10 at Belmont Park. The Commissioner filly was left alone on an easy lead, going a half-mile in 51.31 seconds and a mile in 1:40.76 before being caught late.
Prior to that race, Con Lima won the 1 1/16-mile Honey Ryder May 1 at Gulfstream Park and Belmont’s Grade 3 Wonder Again June 3 in successive starts, both also on the turf, where she has a record of five wins and two seconds from seven tries.
“It’s not obvious in her pedigree, but obviously she’s performed well over the grass. She appreciates the tighter turns at Saratoga like she did at Gulfstream. She’s doing well and we’re looking forward to trying it again,” Pletcher said. “She just continues to step up. She’s been super consistent and gives a good effort every time.”
Flavien Prat has the mount from post 5 on Con Lima, whose other stakes wins came over the winter at Gulfstream in the Ginger Brew January 2 and Grade 3 Herecomesthebride February 27, when she was placed first following the disqualification of Spanish Loveaffair.
“She seemed to really like Gulfstream, which is a tighter course, so maybe that will work in her favor here,” Pletcher said. “If she continues to run her races the way she has been, she should be able to get one of [these].