Yellow Agate and Dancing Rags each took the first step toward a starting berth in next spring’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) with big Grade 1 wins over the weekend.
Yellow Agate, trained by Christophe Clement for China Horse Club and ridden by Manny Franco, was actually favored to win the $400,000 Frizette Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on the second of two Super Saturday programs.
The bay daughter of Gemologist was sent off at 6-5 and, like in her September 11 maiden run, settled near the rear of the field. Libby’s Tail was leading the way up front through splits of :22.86, :45.69 and 1:10.75 while 8-5 second choice Nonna Mela pressed the pace in second.
Yellow Agate joined the duo just as Nonna Mela began backing up. Libby’s Tail, however, was still going strong and led the way into the stretch. Yellow Agate was tenacious, slowly closing the gap before just getting up to stick her head in front on the wire to stop the clock for a mile over Belmont’s fast dirt in 1:35.82.
Yellow Agate only earned a 91 BRIS Speed rating for winning her stakes debut, two points lower than the 93 she was awarded for taking her maiden bow.
The Frizette saw Yellow Agate pick up 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series as well as a guaranteed berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on November 5 at Santa Anita Park.
"Yellow Agate came out of her race in very good order," Clement said Sunday. "I'm happy with her this morning. I will speak with the owners and we'll make a decision by the end of the week. Of course, we'll keep the Breeders' Cup under strong consideration."
One day before, Keeneland kicked off its 2016 Fall Meet with a pair of stakes, one of which was the Alcibiades Stakes (G1).
Also both a Road to the Kentucky Oaks race worth 10 points to the winner and “Win & You’re In” contest for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the 1 1/16-mile affair featured a field of 14 juvenile fillies.
Diadura brought a two-for-two mark into the Alcibiades, including a 5 1/2-length victory in the Arlington-Washington Lassie in her prior race, and found herself the 7-2 favorite.
However, it was 12-1 Dancing Rags who stood in the winner’s circle at the completion of the race.
Caroline Test set the opening three-quarters in :23.72, :47.43 and 1:11.82 while Dancing Rags stalked from the three path under Angel Cruz. The duo maintained that wide trip heading into the stretch, where Dancing Rags took over and pulled off a one-length score in 1:44.69 over Keeneland’s fast dirt.
The win, good for an 87 BRIS Speed figure, came as a surprise to most, including Graham Motion, who trains the bay daughter of Union Rags for Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable. That means the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile fillies is a new and intriguing option for the filly.
“I haven’t really talked to Mrs. Wyeth about it yet, but obviously that is what we would like to do if Dancing Rags is doing well,” Motion said, adding he hasn’t decided if he’ll keep Dancing Rags at Keeneland or send her back to his base at Maryland’s Fair Hill training center prior to shipping to the West Coast.
“I wasn’t expecting to win so I would have to think about,” he admitted. “I don’t necessarily want to move her around a lot. We have to figure out all the pros and cons about what would be best for her.”
If Dancing Rags runs in the Juvenile Fillies, she likely reunite with Cruz, who has now been aboard for all three of her races.
“I really haven’t ridden Angel a lot but I have watched him ride,” Motion said. “I think he is a super rider. The Maryland riding colony is very strong; we have some super riders there. He has ridden for me a little bit and I am certainly aware of his talents. He gave her a great ride in the Alcibiades. I would certainly consider using him in the Breeders’ Cup if we decide to go.”