Crystal Ball sees her way into Sunday’s Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes a pristine 3-for-3 in 2021. She’s taken those three races on three different tracks in three different states with three different jockeys.
Now, the trek toughens. The competition stiffens. And the stakes literally heighten.
Named after the Hall of Fame mare who beat the boys in back-to-back Jockey Club Gold Cups (1970-71) en route to earning three consecutive Eclipse Awards, the Shuvee sends seven fillies and mares 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga.
For Crystal Ball, it’s a glimpse to see if she can take that next step. And take it against five other stakes winners. That includes millionaire and 2/1 race favorite Dunbar Road (6-1-3 in 12 starts) and 5/2 second choice Royal Flag, who hasn’t missed the board in nine starts (4-3-2).
At 4/1, you can see value in this Crystal Ball
The 4/1 third choice, Crystal Ball comes in with a 4-1-1 record in seven starts. Her perfect record in 2021 came in two allowance optional claiming events; one at Santa Anita Park in April, the second at Churchill Downs in May, and the Listed Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown in Ohio last month. She won the first two under Bob Baffert’s care, before owner WinStar Farm transferred the daughter of Malibu Moon to Rodolphe Brisset.
Baffert and Flavien Prat guided Crystal Ball to that Santa Anita allowance optional win, bringing a career-best 93 Beyer Speed Figure along. Baffert sent Florent Geroux off in that Churchill Downs allowance optional score. Brisset called on Luis Saez for the nine-furlong Lady Jacqueline, getting a 1 ¼-length win as the 2/1 second favorite.
“When she got switched to us, our main goal was to win a stakes with her and we accomplished that last time,” Brisset told the New York Racing Association. “The mare is 3-for-3 this year. She’s training well, she likes this track. I think it’s the next logical spot for her to try and win a graded stakes with her now. She’s a gorgeous mare physically. She’s obviously going to be in the WinStar broodmare band. It would be nice for her to win that.”
Thus far, Saratoga has proved tough
Crystal Ball may like Saratoga, but she’s 0-for-2 at the Spa. To be fair, both of those were Grade 1s: last year’s Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes. Crystal Ball finished second by a head to Paris Lights in the CCA Oaks. She finished a distant and non-threatening fifth to Swiss Skydiver in the Alabama Stakes – by 25 ¼ lengths.
So the Shuvee is a big fortune-telling race for Crystal Ball. Can she see her way to that elusive graded-stakes victory that would take her to the next level? Can she beat fillies and mares like Dunbar Road, Royal Flag and Antoinette, who won stakes on both dirt and turf?
“She trained very well Thursday morning. We’ll school her at the gate, and we’ll just do our normal routine, take her over there on Sunday and see what happens,” Brisset said.