March 4, 2024

Nest, Clairiere set for second Spa clash in Personal Ensign

Nest answered the fitness question off the layoff in the Shuvee (Photo by Coglianese Photos)

Who will have the upper hand among the older fillies and mares heading into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) figures to be determined Friday at Saratoga in the $500,000 Personal Ensign (G1).

The 1 1/8-mile fixture serves as a rematch between last year’s champion three-year-old filly Nest and multiple Grade 1 star Clairiere. The pair last met in the July 23 Shuvee (G2) over the track and distance, with Nest getting the nod by 2 1/4 lengths in her belated season debut. It was Nest’s third win from as many starts over the Saratoga strip.

“It was all the way from the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and it was a delayed start. Running a mile and an eighth against a mare like Clairiere was asking a lot,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “But I was impressed by the way she did it and even more impressed by the way she came out of it and the way she’s trained since then.”

Clairiere easily finished in front of Nest in last fall’s Distaff at Keeneland in what was their first-ever meeting, and had preceded her Shuvee second with back-to-back wins in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) and Ogden Phipps (G1).

Secret Oath has defeated both Nest and Clairiere at least once in the past but has tended to prove a cut below both rivals over the past two seasons. She was a sub-par fifth when last seen in the June 10 Ogden Phipps.

A far more intriguing potential upsetter is Idiomatic, a Juddmonte homebred trained by Brad Cox who has won six of nine starts, including the Delaware H. (G2) and Shawnee (G3) in her last two starts.

“I think she’s a big, strong Curlin that should like this surface up here,” Cox said.

The outsiders in the field are Grade 3 winner Sixtythreecaliber and the allowance-class Malloy.

Earlier in the card, the $150,000 Smart N Classy S. for fillies and mares over 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf has drawn several of the top contenders from the July 22 Caress (G3). That race was won by Roses for Debra by more than two lengths.

Re-opposing are Bubble Rock and Poppy Flower, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the Caress.