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By Mary Eddy
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Stonestreet Stables’ dual Grade 1-winner Clairiere came home the best of four to once again defeat her familiar opponent, reigning Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Malathaat, in a thrilling edition of the Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
The Shuvee marked the sixth renewal of an exciting rivalry between the two Stonestreet-bred fillies, and their first meeting since Clairiere defeated the accomplished Malathaat for the first time in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 11 at Belmont Park for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Clairiere eked out the victory by a head in their last matchup, but came home a clear 1 1/2-length winner this time in the nine-furlong test for older fillies and mares.
Clairiere, sent from post 4 as the second choice in the wagering under Joel Rosario, broke sharply while longshot Exotic West charged up from the inside post to take command of the compact field of four through an opening quarter-mile in 24.75 seconds over the fast main track.
Crazy Beautiful tracked in second to the outside of Exotic West with Malathaat, who sported blinkers for the first time, sitting in third to the outside of Clairiere. The tightly bunched quartet’s positions remained unchanged through a half-mile in 49.45 before Crazy Beautiful made her move to the outside of Exotic West and led the charge heading into the final turn.
Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez gave Malathaat her cue from third as Clairiere split rivals and was full of run with nowhere to go, running up on the heels of Crazy Beautiful in the turn and steadying before finding room on the rail and digging in for the drive to the wire. Malathaat menaced down the center of the racetrack as the two put away Crazy Beautiful at the eighth pole, but it was Clairiere that prevailed over an all-out Malathaat to complete the nine furlongs in 1:51.96.
Rosario, who has piloted Clairiere in her last three outings, said the daughter of Curlin was game to the wire.
“She broke really well. There wasn’t a lot of room between the three-eighths and the quarter-pole and I just had to be there because they were going really slow,” Rosario said. “She responded really well when I asked her.
“She was there for me,” added Rosario. “I was always looking to see where there was room to go and it looked like it opened up inside, and I just had to go with that. She did great.”
Asmussen, who also trained Clairiere’s Hall of Fame sire, said the 4-year-old filly continues to show her class.
“I think that it’s more proof of who she is,” said Asmussen. “She’s a great filly and what a great race. Moderate fractions, they came home in good time and she’s just a very fast mare right now.
The Shuvee was the third race off a four-month layoff for Clairiere, who posted a good sophomore campaign where she scored her first Grade 1 victory in the Cotillion at Parx Racing and finished fourth in both the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks in May and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff in November at Del Mar.
Asmussen said Clairiere has come into her own this year.
“She kept excellent company from fall of her 2-year-old year and her whole 3-year-old year,” said Asmussen. “We sent her down to Stonestreet in Ocala to Ian Brennan off a fourth by three-quarters of a length in the Distaff. She got a little break. She went back in training down there and she came back in breezing more impressively than when she finished her 3-year-old year. I think her races have shown that.
“It’s fun to see her physical development,” added Asmussen. “We were near Malathaat in the Oaks in the paddock and [could see] how much bigger Malathaat was in the Kentucky Oaks. Then we’re next to her in the paddock here today, it’s [noticeable] how comparable we are physically.”
The Saratoga winner’s circle eluded Clairiere last year as she posted game on-the-board efforts in Grade 1 company, finishing behind Malathaat in both the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama. Asmussen said the Shuvee was a prep for another try at a Saratoga Grade 1 in the $600,000 Personal Ensign on August 27.
“The Personal Ensign was the reason to be here,” Asmussen said. “She ran two solid races last year at Saratoga and we expect better this year.”
Clairiere, out of the multiple Grade 1-winning mare Cavorting, scored the fourth graded victory of her career in the Shuvee. She banked $110,000 for her victory, increasing her total purse earnings to $1,909,592 with a record of 14-6-4-2. She returned $5 for a $2 win wager.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said Malathaat, winner of the 2021 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, was not her usual self in the paddock or on the racetrack.
“I was very concerned leaving the paddock,” said Pletcher. “She came in super quiet. I don’t know if she reacted adversely to the heat. She’s normally a very classy mare and not really animated, but she was dull. She seemed to stay dull on the post parade and for a horse adding first time blinkers, she was just a very dull performance all the way around. I’ve never seen her that quiet in the paddock before.”
Velazquez agreed that Malathaat did not put in her usual effort.
“We thought she would be more aggressive, but she was really relaxed,” said Velazquez in regards to the addition of blinkers. “She just didn’t come with any run.”
Live racing continues Wednesday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for older fillies and mares sprinting six furlongs in Race 4. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.