Second chance for Olive Branch

- -

Olive Branch did everything right on the grounds and racetrack leading up to the OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale. She did most everything right – she is a 2-year-old after all – when she arrived at Rick Violette’s barn at Belmont Park shortly after Ralph Evans bought her for $185,000.

And she did everything right in her career debut, winning a 5-furlong maiden in mid-May at Belmont to earn a spot in the $197,000 Astoria Stakes during last month’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Things started out well enough for Olive Branch when she showed up in the paddock with the other fillies for the Astoria, handled saddling and stood calmly in her stall as minutes ticked down to post time. Things went from bad to worse to disastrous in a matter of seconds, after another filly started to act up to set off a chain reaction – again, these are 2-year-old fillies – and Olive Branch showed a new side to her usual placid personality.

“One filly set her off and then we just never got her brains back,” Violette said Wednesday outside his barn at Saratoga Race Course.

Olive Branch initially reared up, got settled and then looked like she wanted to lie down, a rare sight in the energy-charged atmosphere of the paddock before a six-figure stakes. She reared up again, this time flipping over in a cloud of dust on the walkway in front of the saddling stalls.

“They thought she hit her head, she didn’t, but you’re not going to win that battle. Once they say it you’re going to have to scratch,” Violette said. “She was fine actually, never missed a beat. I galloped her the next day.

“You know it’s in them. She surprised us then and you have to be careful she doesn’t try to surprise you again. She’d never shown that side of her, but we’ll see what happens next time in the afternoon.”

The next time is today, as Saratoga Race Course kicks off its 40-day 2016 meeting and Olive Branch gets another chance to do things right when she takes on eight others in the co-featured $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes. She’ll meet two fillies who contested the Astoria – fifth-place Lightning Dove and sixth-place Harlands Thunder, the latter one also got a bit worked up in the prelims for that stakes. 

To read the rest of the Schuylerville preview download Friday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Keeneland Sales.