Shug McGaughey stood in the winner’s circle after Sunday’s sixth at Saratoga Race Course with his navy jacket draped over his left arm while he looked on in admiration at Mrs. Danvers.
The gray 2-year-old filly owned and bred by Joseph Allen had just become the second winner at the meet for her Hall of Fame trainer, who also sent out five horses to place in 20 starts in the first 29 days of the season.
“Well, we need more winners,” McGaughey said. “I’ve been a little disappointed in what’s going on up here, but the horses have started running better. Some of them ran fine and just weren’t good enough.”
Mrs. Danvers finished third behind Sweet Kisses and Finite in her debut here July 19. She lunged at the start of the 6-furlong race on the main track and got away last. McGaughey expected more and so did the betting public, who backed her as the 5-2 favorite.
“She’s a filly we’ve always liked. She’s a homebred and she had worked good coming into her first race and she got away bad that day and we learned a little something about her,” McGaughey said. “I was a little bit surprised. I didn’t think she would break fast, but I thought she would break with them. I was a little bit surprised she broke that way.”
After Mrs. Danvers emerged from her first race in good order, McGaughey breezed her 3 furlongs on the Oklahoma in :38.72 and knew immediately she would run back well. Mrs. Danvers worked again Aug. 12, going a half in :50.45. She didn’t break from the gate in her works, but McGaughey stood her in the starting gate between races.
“She came out of the race good. The first time I breezed her out of it, I said to myself, ‘you’re not going to have to wait to run her back,’ ” McGaughey said.
Backed as the favorite again Sunday, this time at 4-5, Mrs. Danvers broke clean and rated 2 1/2 lengths behind Finite, who ran fractions of :22.27 and :45.71 in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special. After tracking on the heels of rival Abilene Trail, who pressed the pace throughout, Mrs. Danvers angled out in the stretch and drew on even terms with Finite under a hand-drive by Joel Rosario. One smack with the stick at the sixteenth pole was all the encouragement needed for Mrs. Danvers to draw away to a 1 1/4-length victory in 1:15.85.
“She broke better and she stalked the right way. I thought she ran really good, still a little bit green,” McGaughey said. “The second horse is probably pretty nice, too, so we were pleased with the way she was able to kick it into gear and finish up past the wire. I just like the way she broke, where she placed herself. When he called on her, she was there and I think she ran down a pretty nice filly of Asmussen’s that had a race under her belt already also. The added distance helped us and even more added distance will help us more.” - Brandon Valvo
• G. Watts Humphrey Jr. saw an opportunity to continue a tradition with East Moon that he started with the homebred filly’s mother, One Caroline.
“One Caroline, she was named after the restaurant here in town,” Humphrey said after East Moon won the fourth, a 1-mile turf allowance. “East Moon is by Speightstown and that’s the best restaurant in Speightstown (in Barbados). She’s very similar to One Caroline. Big mare, tall mare, about as heavy as One Caroline.”
Trained by Rusty Arnold, East Moon improved to 2-for-13 and padded her bankroll to $197,247 with the victory. The allowance was the only race on the card that stayed on the turf after heavy rains overnight.
The decision to try the turf again after most of the filly’s previous starts were on dirt came after a second in a similar allowance at Churchill Downs and a half-mile breeze on the Oklahoma turf in :51.90 Aug. 9.
“One Caroline was all dirt,” Humphrey said. “We thought East Moon was all dirt and she just does better on the turf. We started breezing on the turf and she loved it. She just came back a lot looser, because she’s a big filly. It’s smooth going on the turf so it’s just a better stride.”
Running out of conditions, East Moon might find herself in stakes company next.
“The three-other-thans are so hard to fill and she is 4,” Humphey said. “This puts her near $200,000 so it’s time to try.” – Catherine Galbraith
• Everything seemed logical when Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners bought Sharing at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings – bid on the filly by Speighstown out of Shared Account to Graham Motion and run her on the turf because that was her mother’s preferred surface.
“We are a big fan of Speightstown and obviously, Shared Account was an incredible race mare so the pedigree was there,” Wellman said of the filly out of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner. “We were a little surprised that we were able to buy her for what we bought her for.”
Wellman partnered with Antony Beck’s Gainesway Farm on the $350,000 winning bid, buying the filly almost on an afterthought.
“I was literally walking out of the sales pavilion to get my car and Antony Beck texted me and asked if we could partner on her,” Wellman said. “Antony has been a great partner of Eclipses’ in the past and we were happy to do it so it’s wonderful. Then of course, it was a no-brainer for Graham to train her.”
Sharing made her debut on the grass, finishing third here July 21, but her second start in Sunday’s third came on the main track after the 1 1/16-mile maiden was moved to the main track at 7 furlongs.
The surface switch didn’t worry her connections.
“She ran excellent on the turf her first time,” said Wellman. “She’s worked excellent on the turf since then, but also trained like a really good filly on the dirt all along. So we only ran her on the turf because that’s what we sort of were supposed to do and we thought it might be a little kinder on her to begin with.
“We had confidence one way or the other and it’s good to see her go out and execute that run the way she did. This opens up a lot of options so we’ll keep everything open. Hopefully she comes out of it well and we’ll decide from there. We’ll take the next step into better company.” – Catherine Galbraith