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Matt Shifman takes a look at the first week of racing from Saratoga, featuring Grade 1 winners and a couple of other interesting victories.

Monomoy Girl stays perfect in 2018

There is only one horse in the country that owns a racing record that compares to that of Monomoy Girl and that belongs to a Triple Crown winner named Justify.

After her ultra-impressive win in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) over Midnight Bisou, both of these 3-year-olds have won four consecutive Grade 1 stakes. However, the filly can add a Grade 2 victory to her 2018 list. The colt has a maiden win and an allowance to pad his resume for this year.

The comparison between the male and female sophomore superstars did not escape her trainer Brad Cox, who coyly commented, “It’s probably a little far-fetched, but if she can win the Cotillion and the Distaff and have an undefeated year, could she be Horse of the Year? I don’t know, she might get a vote or two.”

I was a big fan of Monomoy Girl before the CCA Oaks and her victory over a multi-grade one winner like Midnight Bisou was nothing short of brilliant. The outcome of the race was never in doubt, once jockey Florent Geroux got her to break alertly from the gate.

We have seen a lot of outstanding fillies and mares this decade and at this point in her career Monomoy Girl fits right in with them.

Pletcher wins his seventh Sanford

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Allen Jerkens Award for Leading Trainer at Saratoga in 2017, was back at when he won the Sanford Stakes (G3) for 2-year-olds for the seventh time with Sombeyay.

The son of Into Mischief broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park at first asking and then finished second in the Tremont after a stumble start.

“He’s not a particularly impressive workhorse in the mornings. He’s always run better than he breezes,” said Pletcher. “I’m perfectly happy with that as long as he’s happy and healthy and continues to perform in the afternoons. But, he’s not one that would blow you away in the mornings. I think in these early 2-year-old races, experience is huge. Having two starts compared to others with only one, I think that helped today.” 

Sistercharlie beats a strong field in the Diana, Motion second again

The highly regarded turf filly Sistercharlie got back to the winner’s circle in the prestigious Diana (G1). It wasn’t easy, but the classy European import got the victory over a very contentious field for trainer Chad Brown.

“I’m looking forward to getting her out to further distances from here on out,” added Brown. “I might bring her back in the [Grade 1] Beverly D. [at Arlington]. I know it’s in three weeks, but this filly is strong and there’s a lot of constitution about her. She’s lightly raced, and if she’s sound, I’m going to take her to Chicago.”

Longshot Ultra Brat fell a nose short of upsetting the Diana at odds of 15-1. For her trainer Graham Motion, it meant that he had now finished second in the Grade 1 for the fifth time.

About the dubious honor, Motion said, “It’s been a race that I’ve always really liked, and I’ve had some nice fillies, so it fit in well with the schedule. But I am frustrated. The last two were incredibly frustrating, but it doesn’t stop me from coming back. You have to keep trying. I’ve been fortunate to train some nice fillies on the grass, so to have the opportunities year after year; I’m very lucky.”

Bam Bam Blu debuts as a 6-year-old

I can’t say that I have ever seen a son of the highly regarded stallion Curlin make his first career start as a 6-year-old. So was the case with Bam Bam Blu. Bred by the Monmouth Park President Dennis Drazin, the foal of 2012 ran fifth in his February debut at Gulfstream Park. Next, in a race that was carded for the turf at the Jersey Shore track he ran off to a 10-length victory. At the Spa on Sunday he got on the turf in a $50,000 starter allowance and ran late to win by a length.

Rachel’s half-brother wins

Wooderson, a half-brother of the Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, broke his maiden in his third try for Todd Pletcher. The son of Awesome Again started just once as a 2-year-old in April at Gulfstream and raced greenly to get second. In his 2018 debut at Monmouth he had a troubled trip while running against a track bias and ended up fifth. At Saratoga on Sunday he put all of the pieces together to break his maiden.

In doing so, he gave the dam Lotta Kim her fifth winner from six foals. Empire Ruler was an unhealthy colt who never made it to the races.

Photo of Monomoy Girl courtesy of NYRA