February 22, 2024

Hall of Fame, Saratoga Oaks attract serious European challengers

Mysterious Night wins the Summer Stakes at Woodbine (Photo by Michael Burns Photography)

European raiders could play prominent roles in Friday’s two grass features for three-year-olds at Saratoga, the $500,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2) over one mile and the $400,000 Saratoga Oaks (G3) for fillies over 1 3/16 miles.

Godolphin homebred Mysterious Night, who dazzled winning the Summer (G1) at Woodbine last September, will look to regain winning form in the Hall of Fame after a pair of dull efforts in Europe to start the season. The gelded son of Dark Angel adds blinkers after trailing the field in the Craven (G3) at Newmarket and finishing 12th of 15 in the Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot.

The other overseas raider, Ocean Vision, was Group 2-placed in France last season and is 2-for-4 this term, most recently finishing fifth in the Prix Paul de Moussac (G3) at Longchamp.

The American contingent includes recent Manila (G3) winner More Than Looks; Nagirroc, the beaten Manila favorite; Bat Flip, last seen taking the Central Park S. at Aqueduct in November; recent Penn Mile (G2) runner-up Behind Enemy Lines; and General Jim, the Pat Day Mile (G2) winner who finished up the track in the Woody Stephens (G1) last out.

Trainer Chad Brown offers a three-prong challenge. Appraise, a distant runner-up to Mysterious Night in the Summer, made his season debut a winning one against allowance foes at Belmont, while Mischievous Angel steps up in class after winning on debut going six furlongs.

“We rested him last year with sore shins after the race in Canada and the horse came back fine. We were just patient with him,” said Brown of Appraise.

More intriguing is Carl Spackler, who followed up a scintillating maiden win at Gulfstream with a sub-par eighth as the favorite in the American Turf (G2).

“He’s a horse we’ve always been very high on. He went to Churchill and didn’t handle the turf at all,” Brown said. “He came out of the race sick and I had to rest him a little bit and get him healthy.”

The European contingent for the Saratoga Oaks includes Elusive Princess, who missed by less than a length in the Prix Saint-Alary (G1) before finishing a commendable fifth in the Prix de Diane (G1), or French Oaks. Farther up in the Chantilly classic was Caroline Street, who had previously taken the Blue Wind (G3) at Naas.

American Sonja has a bit to find on form compared to the above two, while former continental mainstay Aspen Grove has more or less settled in the U.S. for the remainder of the season after posting a 15-1 upset of the 10-furlong Belmont Oaks (G1) last month.

Grade 2 winner Papilio rallied for third in the Belmont Oaks after a stumbling start, while Selenaia returns to the site of her only loss after taking the Honeymoon (G3) at Santa Anita by more than three lengths. Also stepping up in class is the Tapeta specialist Solo Album, a romping winner of the Selene (G3) at Woodbine.