Clearing Lands Ogden Phipps Over Malathaat - petsitterbank

Clearing Lands Ogden Phipps Over Malathaat

There are times when starting more than 47,000 horses in a Hall of Fame career comes in handy.

Just ask trainer Steve Asmussen.

In the course of a whirlwind two-and-a-half-hour span June 11 at Belmont Parkthe sport’s all-time winning trainer enjoyed a refresher course in horse racing’s powerful highs and lows.

In the Acorn Stakes (G1), Asmussen endured the shock of his 2-year-old champion Echo Zulu scratched at the gate as a 2-5 favorite.

Then, four races later, Asmussen was on top of the world when Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Clearing 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.

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“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 Curling 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).

Photo: Skip Dickstein

Stonestreet’s Barbara Banke (right) leads Clairiere and Joel Rosario to the winner’s circle

“It was very special with the field here,” Asmussen said. “It’s a wonderful experience. Going 1:41 for a mile and sixteenth. Is that even possible?”

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.”

The Phipps was a breed with two separate segments.

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.

For Letruska’s trainer, Fausto Gutierrez, it was not the pace he was hoping for in a small field.

“I think :22 for these horses is very fast,” he said. “With those fractions, (closers) are going to enjoy the race.”

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.

“They were rolling, the separation they got from the three-eighths to the quarter pole had me concerned,” Asmussen said.

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 great 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.

Clearing, 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 Ridge and a 2-year-old full brother to Clairiere named Judge Miller.

Cavorting with Florent Geroux wins the Ogden Phipps (gr. I)
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Cavorting wins the 2016 Ogden Phipps Stakes

As for Echo Zulu, who was scratched when Rosario sensed she was not warming up properly, Asmussen said X-rays did not reveal a problem.

“We had (the veterinarian) X-ray her and everything was clean,” Asmussen said. “That was completely out of our hands. The main thing is that she’s OK.”

Clairiere with Joel Rosario wins the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on June 11, 2022.
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Clairiere and her connections enjoy their visit to the winner’s circle

Video: Ogden Phipps S. (G1)

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