In addition to Essential Quality’s determined score in the historic Travers S. (G1), Kentucky-breds swept the entire slate of six Grade 1 races at Saratoga on Aug. 28. For Essential Quality, his hard-fought score in the $1,250,000 Travers was his fourth in a Grade 1 event for Godolphin and trainer Brad Cox. The son of Tapit now boasts career earnings in excess of $4.2 million.
Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo registered a game victory in the $750,000 Sword Dancer Handicap (G1), holding off a fast-finishing Japan to win the 1 ½-mile turf test in 2:28.30. Ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Christophe Clement, Gufo earned a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in November at Del Mar.
“I am delighted with this horse and the way he ran today,” said Clement. “He is a top-class horse. He’s always been a top-class horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by John Little and Stephen Cainelli, Gufo improved his record to 12-7-2-3.
St. George Stable’s homebred Letruska won the $600,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) in wire-to-wire fashion to solidify her ranking as the country’s top older female. In winning the 74th running of the Personal Ensign, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Letruska scored by a half-length after turning back a bevy of challengers in the lane.
Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. for trainer Fausto Gutierrez, Letruska covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.15. Each of her last three wins have come in Breeders’ Cup Distaff challenge races. She captured the Fleur de Lis (G2) at Churchill, as well as the Ogden Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park.
“She’s a special horse,” Ortiz said. “I am very excited and happy for the trainer, Fausto Gutierrez. He’s done such a great job with her. She’s doing great. She does all the hard work. I just pilot her.”
The $320,000 winner’s share of the purse increased her bankroll to $1,936,459. All told, Letruska, a daughter of Super Saver, has won nine graded stakes races.
William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Yaupon overcame the savaging of rival Firenze Fire in the stretch to score a brave win in the $600,000 Forego Stakes (G1). With Ricarda Santana Jr. aboard, Yaupon literally fought off Firenze Fire, piloted by Jose Ortiz, to prevail following numerous attempts by Firenze Fire inside the sixteenth pole to bite his halter. Santana continued riding Yaupon through the interaction and won by a head at the finish. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Yaupon covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.74 in registering his first Grade 1 victory.
“It’s very exciting to have a winner of the Grade 1 Forego for the Heiligbrodts,” Asmussen said. “But the finish made it that much more dramatic. “I will watch that replay many times in the future. For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.”
Yaupon, a 4-year-old by Uncle Mo, is undefeated in three starts at the Spa. Yaupon is a $255,000 graduate of the OBS June sale. He was bred in the Bluegrass by Betz, Lamantia, CoCo Equine, Magers, and Burns.
Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine flashed her brilliance once again, running her rivals off their feet in the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (G1). A “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar, the 43rd running of the Ballerina was the first of the six Grade 1 events on the program.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Gamine, with regular rider John Velazquez in the irons, ran seven furlongs in 1:21.61, the fastest Ballerina since Lady Tak ran 1:21/09 in 2004. Sent off as the prohibitive 1-5 favorite against six rivals, Gamine extended her win streak to four this year and five overall with her fifth Grade 1 triumph.
“She just kind of waited and then by the quarter pole, I asked her for what she needed to do, and she got it done,” Velazquez said. “When she’s in the lead, she’s in control of herself.”
Bred in Kentucky by Grace Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Gamine, a daughter of Into Mischief, has captured nine of 10 career starts—her lone defeat coming when she was third in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles. Her lifetime bankroll now stands at $1,681,500. She brought $800,000 as a 2-year-old in training in 2019.
“She sure does enjoy New York,” said Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes. “She’s been good and solid. The Gamine machine—that’s her.”
Kirk and Judy Robison’s Jackie’s Warrior took down top prize in the $500,000 Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1). The MacLean’s Music colt overtook Life Is Good in the lane and held that rival at bay to score by a neck at the wire. Ridden by Rosario, Jackie’s Warrior hit the wire in a final time of 1:21.39, holding off a resurgent Life Is Good for a game victory.
“This horse is incredible,” said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “The thing you just love about him is his demeanor and the way he goes about everything that he does.”
Rosario added, “I felt confident, but Life Is Good was not giving up, and a lot of credit to him, too. It was a very good race.”
Bred in Kentucky by J & J Stables, Jackie’s Warrior, sent off at odds of 3-2, increased his career earnings to more than $1.3 million. He remains undefeated at Saratoga after annexing the Saratoga Special (G2) and the Hopeful (G1) last year.”