Gamine has passed every test facing her on the track: breaking her maiden, winning an allowance, and romping to a near-record time in her first Grade 1. So Saturday’s Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga is a natural for the 3-year-old, Bob Baffert-trained filly.
A seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies, the Test is one of three Grade 1 events on Saratoga’s Travers Day slate. It joins the 1 ¼-mile Travers Stakes and the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes, another seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up. The 12-race card also offers the Grade 3 Troy Stakes, a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint for older males, and the Grade 3 Waya, a rare 1 ½-mile turf route for older fillies and mares.
Aside from the Travers, a Kentucky Derby prep race featuring Belmont Stakes champion Tiz the Law, Saratoga’s centerpiece event is the Test. And Gamine – the 3/5 favorite — is the central reason for that, based on what she did her last time out.
Morning Line (Jockey)
- Up in Smoke, 12/1 (Luis Saez)
- Perfect Alibi, 20/1 (Tyler Gaffalione)
- Mrs. Danvers, 8/1 (Jose Ortiz)
- Wicked Whisper, 20/1 (Ricardo Santana Jr.)
- Gamine, 3/5 (John Velazquez)
- Venetian Harbor, 8/5 (Joel Rosario)
That was the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Gamine went wire-to-wire over the one-turn mile in 1:32.55. That was the fastest time in the Acorn’s 90-year history, and only .31 seconds off Najran’s 2003 track record of 1:32.24.
Breaking the Law
The 18 ¾-length demolition was as effortless as it looked, bringing with it a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. That was 10 points better than Tiz the Law’s winning Belmont Beyer, and the fastest Beyer turned in by a 3-year-old this year.
“She was just unbelievable that day, but she’s come back and trained well,” Baffert said on a National Thoroughbred Racing Association conference call earlier this week. “You know, when they run that hard and fast, you always worry and wonder if they pop out or something. But she actually looks, she looks terrific. She looks better now going into this race.”
Owned by Pandora Jewelry baron Michael Lund Petersen, Gamine breezed six furlongs in 1:12.80 at Del Mar last Sunday. Baffert, meanwhile, uses the Test as a gauge to see where Gamine is heading into next month’s Kentucky Oaks. There, she’s anywhere from a 6/5 to 7/4 favorite on Oddschecker to win the nine-furlong Oaks.
One Test Gamine Didn’t Pass
About the only test Gamine didn’t pass was the one coming after her Oaklawn Park allowance win. Her post-race drug test turned up positive for excessive amounts of lidocaine. When a second test verified the first one and Baffert lost his appeal, Gamine surrendered her allowance victory.
Gamine isn’t the only Grade 1 winner in the Test field. There’s Wicked Whisper (20/1), winner of the Frizette at Belmont Park last fall, and Spinaway winner Perfect Alibi (20/1). Wicked Whisper was wicked-slow in her last outing – the Grade 3 Beaumont at Keeneland – when Four Graces waxed her by 15 ¾ lengths. Perfect Alibi, meanwhile, had none during her well-beaten fifth in the Acorn, where she finished 31 lengths behind Gamine.
“It was such a crazy race and the one filly (Gamine) was so awesome, it’s hard to say what happened,” Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse told the New York Racing Association about Perfect Alibi. “She was coming back off a long layoff and it wasn’t an ideal spot, but it was the best spot that was out there for her and it just didn’t work out.”
The Other Grade 1 Winners Are Your Long Shots
Both horses might as well be in the chorus, for all the attention they’re getting. Whatever oxygen Gamine leaves here gets sucked up by second-favorite Venetian Harbor (8/5). Once considered the top 3-year-old filly in the country, Venetian Harbor broke her maiden her second time out by 10 ¾ lengths last December. She followed that with a 9 ¼-length romp in the one-mile Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita in February.
Venetian Harbor finished second to Speech at last month’s Grade 1 Ashland Oaks at Keeneland. Before that, she placed second as the 4/5 favorite to Swiss Skydiver at the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park. She has two wins and three seconds in five starts.
“She’s been beaten by two very good fillies going long, which is probably more what those fillies wanted to do, so we’ll see how she runs here with a cutback in distance,” assistant trainer Aimee Dollace said.
The pick: Gamine. Even if she loses 10 points off her Acorn Beyer Speed Figure (110), that’s good enough to prevail here.