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Two Heavyweights Highlight Spa’s Four-Horse Shuvee

There are only four entered in the 46th running of the $200,000 Shuvee Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course July 23. That being said, there are a couple of heavy hitters in the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares aged 4 and up.

Start with the leader of the division, the classy 5-year-old mare Clairiere . Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the Stonestreet Stables’ gal has won two of three starts this year, the last two being the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park June 10 and the Apple Blossom Stakes (G1) at Oaklawn Park April 15.

“She’s as good as it gets,” Asmussen said. “We’ve got two grade 1s in a row in extremely dramatic fashion. It seems it’s going to be the same way this time, very few participants with a soft pace, but she can still do it.”

Clairiere faced five in the Phipps and rallied late under Joel Rosario to win by a half-length over Search Results . In the Apple Blossom, there were only four starters and again Rosario and Clairiere came flying late to nail Secret Oath  by a neck.

Clairiere, a daughter of Curlin  , will be making her fifth Saratoga start. She is the defending champ in this race, winning last year’s version by a length and a half over Malathaat , who would ger her revenge when she beat Clairiere in the Personal Ensign (G1) and then the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

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Rosario won the last three editions of the Shuvee; he also took it with Royal Flag  (2021) and Letruska  (2020).

The salivating matchup Clairiere faces in the Shuvee, which will be the fourth race on the 10-race card, comes from Nest , who is making her first start since running fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Landing in a spot against Clairiere in her first start in eight months is not the ideal starting point for Nest, who has won seven of 11 career starts.

“No, it’s not,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It’s not the position we set out to be in at the beginning of the year, but it’s kind of where we are.”

 She was 5-for-8 last year and finished second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1). She was the easy choice for the Eclipse Award for 3-year-old female.

When Nest, also by Curlin, arrived at Pletcher’s Florida barn early this year, she immediately had a setback.

“She arrived at noon from Ocala and by 3 she had a temperature,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher was hoping Nest would be ready for races such as the Doubledogdare Stakes (G2) at Keeneland Racecourse in April or the La Troienne Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs in May as a prep for the Ogden Phipps.

“We missed a month; she got a pretty good lung infection and it took us a while to get it under control,” Pletcher said. “We weren’t ready; not enough training.”

Pletcher said it was between running in the Shuvee or going to Monmouth Park to run in the Molly Pitcher Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on July 22. 

It was probably an easy decision. Nest was an impressive winner twice here last year, winning the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) by 12 1/4 lengths and the Alabama Stakes (G1) by 4 1/4 lengths.

“If you had to name an MVP from last year’s Saratoga meet, I think Nest would have to be right up there,” said Mike Repole, who owns the 4-year-old filly along with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Michael House. “When she got up to Saratoga last year, it was her coming-out party. She might be the only one I know who likes Saratoga more than me.”

Nest, who will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., has had 11 works this year, the latest coming on the Oklahoma Training Track when she went four furlongs in 50 seconds July 16.

“She has run well pretty much in every start of her career,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, we have her good enough to perform well and this is the first step toward bigger goals. She has no trouble with the distances, as we saw in the (1 1/4-mile) Alabama, but going a mile and an eighth with some seasoned, real high-quality horses is a tall order, but she seems like she is doing really well.”

Trainer Philip Bauer had to switch gears for the Shuvee after his stable star, 5-year-old mare Played Hard , spiked a temperature. 

“When you compete against those types of horses, you have to be at your best,” Bauer said. “We’ll back up and punt and hit the reset button.”

Bauer will be represented by Skratch Kat, owned by Rigney Racing, which also owns Played Hard. The 4-year-old daughter of Arrogate, who will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, was fourth in last year’s Alabama. She has two wins in 11 career starts.

“We’re swinging to try and hit a home run with our eyes closed,” Bauer said. “Stranger things have happened. I don’t think we can beat the two big ones, but it’s horse racing and anything can happen.”

Rounding out the field is Parx Racing shipper Pistol Liz Ablazen , owned by Cash is King LLC and LC Racing LLC. This will be the graded stakes debut for the daughter of Daredevil  , who will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche and is trained by Butch Reid Jr.


Entries: Shuvee S. (G2)

Saratoga Race Course, Sunday, July 23, 2023, Race 4

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares
  • 3:00 PM (local)

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