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Elusive Princess Takes Saratoga Oaks in U.S. Debut

LNJ Foxwoods’ Jaime Roth was at Churchill Downs on May 5, waiting for her filly Botanical  to run in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) when she fielded a call from her bloodstock agent, Alex Solis II.

Solis along with fellow bloodstock agent Hubert Guy was assembling a partnership to buy a 3-year-old filly in France and they wanted the Roth family’s LNJ Foxwoods to be a part of it.

“Alex told me he found a great filly,” Roth said. “He said, ‘I got her. She’s great. Let’s hope this deal goes through.'”

Botanical did not fare that well in the Oaks, finishing 13th. But the filly Solis and Hubert found, a daughter of Martinborough  named Elusive Princess , gave the Roths a positive memory to come out of the 2023 Oaks when the private purchase used a ridiculously wide rally to post a 3 1/4-length victory on soft turf in the $400,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational Stakes (G3T) Aug. 4 at Saratoga Race Course.

“Alex is usually right but he was very right about her,” Roth said. “It makes (Oaks Day) a little better.”

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A 6-5 favorite ($4.70) in her United States debut, Elusive Princess posted her fourth win in eight starts for trainer/owner/breeder Jean-Philippe Dubois, who sold a large chunk of the filly three starts back to a group that includes LNJ Foxwoods, Ecurie Victoria Dreams (Dubois’ stable), NK Racing, and Anthony Munafo.

In her first start for new connections, she was second in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1). After a fifth in the Prix de Diane (G1), plans were made to ship her across the Atlantic Ocean for the second leg of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Triple for 3-year-old fillies.

“She ran against a really good colt in France and she beat him easily,” said Guy, who has been buying foreign horses for top U.S. stables and bringing them to America for nearly 40 years. “When I looked at her physically…I thought she was a filly who would fit very well in this country. After the fifth in the French Oaks we decided to come here earlier than we expected. This looked like a good spot to start here in America. It’s a beautiful venue. Saratoga is magic.”

The Saratoga Oaks was contested in a driving rain storm that would force NYRA to cancel the final four races of the day, including the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2T). 

Selenaia  set the pace in the 1 3/16-mile test, covering six furlongs in 1:13.56. But that would catch up with her as she faded to eighth in the field of 10 and three fillies who either shipped in from Europe or started their careers there dominated the running.

Mark Dobbin’s American Sonja , who was fourth after the opening half-mile, bid for the lead turning for home. The daughter of Tasleet  making her U.S. debut went extremely wide under Oisin Murphy, drifting into the 8-9 paths. That forced Papilio , who was third in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T) that started the series, to run in the 9-10 paths.

Elusive Princess with jockey Flavian Prat goes wide around the outside left of the field on the way to the win in 5th running of The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational at the Saratoga Race Course Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo  by Skip Dickstein
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Elusive Princess (far left) goes to the far outside to circle the field on her way to winning the Saratoga Oaks Invitational Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

Meanwhile, Elusive Princess had to move up from eighth, running widest of all in the 11-12 paths while reaching the front before drawing clear in the final furlong and crossing the wire in 1:57.08.

“She’s very good on the soft turf,” Guy said. “She’s very good on the firm. She’s a special filly.”

Prat said the wide trip worked out because the outside paths are better than the inside lanes.

“I was actually on the good ground so I was okay with it. I was going to go outside, but I ended up being a lot wider than I thought,” said Prat, who was born in France. “She handled it really well. She won on soft in Europe and she was traveling well all the way around. I’m really pleased to win for Mr. Dubois who’s probably known me since I was a little kid, so it’s great to ride for him and get a winner for him.”

Out of the Elusive City mare Elusive Action, Elusive Princess will remain in the United States and be trained by Arnaud Delacour.

American Sonja, trained by Joseph O’Brien, was second by a half-length over Papilio, a Starspangledbanner  filly trained by Mark Casse, who started her career in Ireland and was sold to D J Stable, Medallion Racing, Barry Fowler, and Parkland Thoroughbreds for a 3-year-old campaign on American shores.

Video: Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Oaks Invitational S. (G3T)

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