Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

The Next Test

Posted by Brian Appleton on August 6, 2011

Go For Wand, Lady’s Secret, Hot N Nasty, Ta Wee, Gamely, Vagrancy and Indian Blessing. Those are just a few of the lofty names that grace the illustrious 95 years roster of Test Stakes winners. Nine fillies will contest 86th running of the Test Stakes (gr.1) at Saratoga on Saturday and attempt to stake their claim as best one-turn 3-year-old filly in the land. While the Test was first run in 1922 at a distance of 1 ¼ miles it was changed to its current seven furlong distance in 1926 after a three year absence. Interestingly eight of the nine fillies set to contest the 2011 Test Stakes enter off stakes races at Belmont Park with just American Lady entering off an allowance score at Hollywood Park.

The big name in the Test is dual Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent who had a serious wrench thrown into her targeted championship-winning campaign when given a thorough thrashing by It’s Tricky in the Acorn Stakes (Gr.1) last out. After nixing a possible run in the Kentucky Oaks earlier this year, trainer Mike Puype announced his intention to win the three-year-old filly championship with Turbulent Descent while racing in the best one-turn races for fillies in the nation. After she won the Beaumont Stakes (gr.2) at Keeneland by five lengths Turbulent Descent appeared poised to run away with the sophomore sprint division in the Acorn Stakes (gr.1). That all changed when she finished almost four lengths behind It’s Tricky. While it was her first time over a sloppy track, she did finish a full ten lengths ahead of Her Smile in third, who came back to win the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes with a thrilling turn of foot. She seems to be coming into the Test in splendid form after her surprising defeat, having turned in two very impressive five furlong works in mid July as well as a 1:12.80 six furlong and a :48.20 work at Del Mar in her two most recent moves. Expect her to come out swinging with her best shot, which will be more than enough to put her in the winner’s circle.

Her Smile has had a rocky 2011 to put it mildly, finishing 4th and 3rd in stakes to begin her year, before finishing a good second in the Comely Stakes (Gr.2), a horrible 11th in the Kentucky Oaks and then a very distant third in the Acorn Stakes on June 11th. She put all that behind her when she came from dead-last in a field of six fillies to capture the Prioress Stakes in a sparkling time of 1:09.44 for the six furlongs. The Include filly came flying up around the far turn under a hand ride by Javier Castellano, went two wide into the turn before finding a three horse barricade directly in her path. Darting to the inside she spurted through a hole on the rail and held off a strong charge from Pomeroy’s Pistol to register a half length victory. She enters the Test off an excellent :46.97 four furlong breeze at Saratago, and will be looking to give owner and celebrity chef Bobby Flay, his second Grade 1 win since purchasing the filly and transferring her to trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn in late April. If her Prioress form holds up and she relishes the extra furlong she will be a strong force to reckon with.

Pomeroy’s Pistol made headlines by winning the Forward Gal Stakes (gr.2) earlier this year, but failed to produce efforts nearly as good in her next two starts, finishing third in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr.2) and sixth in the Eight Belle Stakes (gr.3). She returned with an easy 4 ½ length win in the Just Smashing Stakes at Monmouth Park before running a terrific race to finish second in the Prioress Stakes (gr.1) behind Her Smile. She ran a three furlong :35.00 bullet work on July 31, her only work since the July 4th Prioress. According to trainer/owner Amy Tarrant the daughter of Pomeroy needs very little work between races to stay fit. She moved wide all the way around the far turn and down the stretch in the Prioress and missed the win by just half a length. I think she’s poised to run another good race.

Ava K. enters off two straight stakes wins at Belmont Park. This will be her second graded stakes attempt after finishing third in the Comely Stakes (Gr.3), two lengths behind Her Smile in second. She’s consistent, but hasn’t stepped up to face fillies of this caliber since the Comely, except this field is much tougher. The rest of the field consists of Salty Strike, last seen finishing 4th in the Mother Goose Stakes, Savvy Supreme, Coax Liberty who enters off a two length victory over Savvy Supreme in the Sometime Thing Stakes, Roman Treasure and American Lady.

It’s a solid field entered for the Test Stakes and should present the contenders with a strong challenge. If Turbulent Descent gets back to her best form she’s got the race in the bag, but Her Smile and Pomeroy’s Pistol could be right there to pick up the pieces if she falters.


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