By: Jim Dunleavy
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Saturday drew a field of five. But they are the right five and difficult to separate.
For example, Paid Up Subscriber will be the longest shot on the board, and she ran her eyes out for trainer Al Stall Jr. in her most recent start to be second to I’m a Chatterbox in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap despite being body-blocked in a chain-reaction collision at the start.
Trainer Dallas Stewart, who will send out Grade 1 Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled, called the 1 1/8-mile Personal Ensign “a great race, an early look at the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, except we’ll have more numbers in there,” a reference to the West Coast filly-and-mare contingent.
Fittingly, as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, the winner of the $750,000 Personal Ensign will earn a fees-paid berth in the BC Distaff at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
Favoritism in the Personal Ensign may go to Cavorting, the winner of the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Curalina, who ran away from the competition to win the Grade 3 Shuvee by more than nine lengths for Todd Pletcher over the Saratoga track July 3, is the likely second choice.
Delaware Handicap winner I’m a Chatterbox, trained by Larry Jones, and Forever Unbridled also will have plenty of support and figure to be only a point or two behind the top pair in the betting.
Forever Unbridled and Curalina finished second and fourth behind Cavorting in the Phipps. Forever Unbridled, who was beaten 2 1/2 lengths, had a difficult trip under Joel Rosario and had to await racing room when blocked nearing and entering the stretch.
“Last race, he kind of tucked her in down the backside, and she didn’t get out until the three-sixteenths pole,” Stewart said. “The winner got away from her, and she just couldn’t catch her.”
Curalina also did not have a perfect trip in the 1 1/16-mile Phipps. She raced close to what turned out to be a hot pace (23.37 seconds, 46.20, 1:10.23) while racing three wide and was beaten 3 3/4 lengths.
“I think her Phipps was better than it looks,” Pletcher said. “She was on the pace wide in a speed duel.”
Cavorting had an ideal trip in the Phipps. Florent Geroux took her back off the pace, and she took command with a wide, sweeping move entering the stretch. But, hey, winners usually do get the best trips, and who is to say she won’t have the best journey again Saturday?
Javier Castellano won the Grade 2 Ruffian on Cavorting two starts back and regains the mount after riding Stopchargingmaria in the Phipps. Geroux stays aboard I’m a Chatterbox, whom he has ridden in 10 of her last 11 starts dating to January 2015.
Personal Ensign, Race 6
I’m a Chatterbox, by Munnings
Last 3 Beyers: 98-94-88
- She made two starts at Saratoga last year at 3. She defeated Curalina by a nose in the Coaching Club American Oaks but was disqualified to second for drifting out and brushing with that rival in deep stretch. In her next start, she finished second to Embellish the Lace in the Alabama Stakes.
- I’m a Chatterbox will be shortening up from 1 1/4 miles in the Del Cap. She has tactical speed and could be part of a temperate, galloping pace in the Personal Ensign.
“She’s stronger than she was a year ago,” Jones said. “She’s the best she’s ever been.”
Forever Unbridled, by Unbridled’s Song
Last 3 Beyers: 98-99-93
- Stewart plans to go directly from the Personal Ensign to the BC Distaff with her.
- She is likely to be toward the back of the field early in her fourth start of the year.
“We began spacing her races out earlier in the year, and she seems to like it that way,” Stewart said. “It has worked out, giving her more recovery time between starts.”
Curalina, by Curlin
Last 3 Beyers: 105-96-100
- She tracked a slower pace in the Shuvee than she was part of in the Phipps. She is drawn outside of I’m a Chatterbox and could get a similar setup here under John Velazquez.
“I thought she was brilliant in her last performance,” Pletcher said. “Tactically, I think she and I’m a Chatterbox have similar styles. I’m just going to leave it up to our rider.”
Cavorting, by Bernardini
Last 3 Beyers: 102-100-89
- She will be stretching out to 1 1/8 miles and trying two turns for the first time.
“We haven’t done anything special in her training for this race; she gallops two turns every day,” McLaughlin said. “All a trainer can do is get a horse fit for what lies ahead. She will either be able to do it or she will not. I’m very happy with her now.”
Paid Up Subscriber, by Candy Ride
Last 3 Beyers: 94-94-88
- A rapidly improving filly, she won the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs prior to the Del Cap.
- She has handled progressively longer distances in each of her four starts this year. She will now be cutting back a furlong.
“She went from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles in 90 days this year,” Stall said. “Her last work was very, very nice.”