As is his MO, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott brought War Like Goddess along slowly, guiding the 4-year-old filly through the class pyramid with care and an eye toward building confidence.

War Like Goddess-Flower Bowl
War Like Goddess captured her third consecutive graded-stakes with this commanding victory in the Grade 2 Glens Falls. She goes for her first Grade 1 score in Saturday’s Flower Bowl Invitational. (Image: Coglianese Photos/NYA)

So when War Like Goddess won three consecutive races – and 5-of-her-first-6 – Mott realized she is ready for the top of the pyramid. And so you find War Like Goddess the 4/5 favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1 Flower Bowl at Saratoga.

Held for the first time at the Spa, the Flower Bowl is one of two Grade 1s on Saratoga’s final Saturday card. Like the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, which offers a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic for its winner, the 1 3/16-mile Flower Bowl comes with Breeders’ Cup spoils. In this case, a “Win and You’re In” berth in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Also on the 12-race card are the Grade 2 Prioress and Grade 3 Saranac.

This is War Like Goddess’ next logical leap

War Like Goddess comes into the Flower Bowl off wins in three graded-stakes at three different tracks. There’s her 3 ¼-length victory over fellow Flower Bowl competitor My Sister Nat in the Grade 2 Glens Falls Stakes on the Whitney undercard. Before that, there was April’s 3 ¾-length beating of Delta’s Kingdom in the Grade 3 Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland. And before that came a nose victory over 1.10/1 favorite Always Shopping in the Grade 3 Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Each time, War Like Goddess bettered her previous Equibase Speed Figure, going from a 93 in the Orchid to a 102 in the Bewitch to a career-best 110 in the Glens Falls. That’s been a trend throughout her six-race career. Only once did War Like Goddess fail to better her previous speed mark. That came in her only loss: a fifth in her first stakes race: the Grade 3 The Very One in late February at Gulfstream.

And even then, War Like Goddess’ 91 Equibase matched her previous total from an October allowance win at Churchill Downs.

“It’s all a test, right? These are tough horses, but the goal is to try and win a Grade 1 with her,” Mott told the New York Racing Association. “She’s done quite well and handled every step so far, so we hope she moves another step forward and accomplishes this.”

Count this as one of the bargain purchases of the year

War Like Goddess already accomplished plenty with her quickness, especially along distance races such as the Flower Bowl. Like the Flower Bowl, the Orchid was an 11-furlong test. The Bewitch and Glens Falls were both 12-furlong races.

Along with Mott’s careful plotting, this explains how War Like Goddess already banked $383,684 in her six races. And that explains owner George Krikorian’s bargain when he purchased the daughter of noted turf sire English Channel for $30,000 at the OBS June 2019 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale.

“Her performance is good, no matter how much they paid for her,” Mott said.

Naturally, Chad Brown has seeds in this Flower Bowl

To get that elusive Grade 1 and Mott’s fifth Flower Bowl, War Like Goddess must beat two Chad Brown charges: My Sister Nat (5/1) and Great Island (4/1). That Brown sends out two contenders surprises nobody, since he’s won the Flower Bowl a record six times.

My Sister Nat is the half-sister to 2019 Flower Bowl winner Sistercharlie. She’s 0-for-3 this year, but hasn’t missed the superfecta in all three starts: a fourth in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay, third in the Grade 2 New York and a second to War Like Goddess in the Glens Falls.

“She’s a real consistent horse, but she’ll have her work cut out for her with War Like Goddess in there,” Brown said. “We’ll try again and hope for a different result.”

Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational/Saratoga

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. La Signare, 5/1 (Ricardo Santana Jr./Brendan Walsh)
  2. American Bridge, 12/1 (Irad Ortiz Jr./Jean-Claude Rouget)
  3. War Like Goddess, 4/5 (Julien Leparoux/Bill Mott)
  4. My Sister Nat, 5/1 (Jose Ortiz/Chad Brown)
  5. Lovely Lucky, 20/1 (John Velazquez/Tom Albertrani)
  6. Great Island, 4/1 (Joel Rosario/Chad Brown)
  7. Coastana, 15/1 (Luis Saez/Cherie DeVaux)

Great Island comes in with two victories in her last three races. This includes her last-to-first win in the Grade 3 Matchmaker on the Haskell Stakes undercard at Monmouth Park. This is the 5-year-old Scat Daddy progeny’s first three-turn trip.

“She ran great and showed a nice, closing kick,” said Brown, who leads Saratoga’s trainers with 34 victories. “We’ve always wanted to try her around three turns, so this is a chance to do it.”

The pick: War Like Goddess. The distance, the form and the fact she’s beaten several of her foes by comfortable margins makes this her race to lose. It makes digging down for value important as well on vertical exotics. Don’t sleep on La Signare, who owns a second and two thirds in her last three races: all Grade 1s.