Owner: Stonestreet Stables Breeder: Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings (KY) Trainer: Steven M. Asmussen Jockey: Joel Rosario Information provided by Equibase at time of entry.
In the course of a whirlwind two-and-a-half-hour span June 11 at Belmont Park, the sport’s all-time winning trainer enjoyed a refresher course in horse racing’s powerful highs and lows.
Then, four races later, Asmussen was on top of the world when Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Clairiere edged past Malathaat to record a head victory in the $480,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) for fillies and mares, securing a free spot in the Nov. 5 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Keeneland through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.
“Who would be better prepared to take it than someone who has run (47,852) horses,” Asmussen said. “Always and never are two words that do not belong in this game. I mean, what’s next?”
Though only five horses broke from the starting gate in the Phipps, there was quality top to bottom. Last year’s champion older dirt female, Letruska , was the 3-5 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile test, but she faded to last and trotted across the finish line after battling through a withering :45.23 half-mile.
In the stretch, the race came down to Malathaat, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2021, and Clairiere, with Asmussen’s daughter of Curlin prevailing in a very fleet 1:41.10 under jockey Joel Rosario and reversing the order of the top two finishers in last year’s Alabama Stakes (G1).
It was, and the victory, Clairiere’s second in a grade 1 stakes, once again confirmed the benefits of breeding the best to the best. Curlin, of course, was a two-time Horse of the Year for Asmussen and Cavorting, a Bernardini mare, was a three-time grade 1 winner for Stonestreet who won the Ogden Phipps in 2016.
“She’s really racing royalty,” Asmussen said about the 4-year-old Clairiere ($11.60), who was second to Letruska in the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) in her last start and was the 9-2 third choice Saturday. “A Curlin out of Cavorting. The race she put together today was beautiful. This was a tremendous stage for her.”
When the field of five broke from the gate, Letruska and Klaravich Stables’ Search Results sped away from their three rivals. After an opening quarter-mile in :22.75 Letruska led by a length over the 2021 Acorn winner, with Malathaat 10 lengths back in third.
Gutierrez was right on that point as his champion mare began to drop back before the quarter pole after six furlongs in 1:09.23, leaving Search Results, a 4-year-old daughter of Flatter trained by Chad Brown, as the one to catch.
Part B of the Phipps consisted of the final eighth of a mile. Though Search Results led by 2 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go, fatigue was setting in. Shadwell Stable’s Malathaat and Clairiere rushed by to decide an outcome that may have been sealed when Malathaat lost some of her focus in the final yards.
“(Jockey John Velazquez) said she kinda lost focus in the last sixteenth of a mile,” said Malathaat’s trainer Todd Pletcher. “It’s probably time to think about some blinkers, which we had in the back of our minds. She’s always been one who is curious and looks around. Johnny said she saw something the last 100 yards and came off the bridle. Still, it was a big effort.”
Malathaat, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin bred by Stonestreet and bought for $1,005,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, was second by 2 1/4 lengths over Search Results. The champion filly had finished in front of the improving Clairiere in their three previous meetings.
Clairiere, who will head to Saratoga Race Course for her summer campaign, is the first of three foals from Cavorting, who also has a stakes-winning 3-year-old filly by Medaglia d’Oro named La Crete and a 2-year-old full brother to Clairiere named Judge Miller.