By Jack Shinar, Blood-Horse
Undefeated in six races before losing badly in her last start, Agave Kiss will attempt to start a new streak at a new track when she faces six rivals in the $300,000 Prioress Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 4.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez for Flying Zee Stables, Agave Kiss will be making her grade I debut in the six-furlong main track test of 3-year-old fillies. The Prioress, previously contested at Belmont Park, immediately precedes the $750,000 Whitney Invitational (gr. I) on the Saratoga card with a probable post of 5:12 p.m. EDT.
Agave Kiss, the 8-5 favorite on the morning line, gets off the rail for the Prioress. An inside post was no no doubt a contributing factor in the meltdown of the speedy New York-bred daughter of Lion Heart when she lost the Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III) July 7 at Belmont.
Never headed at any call in her previous races, Agave Kiss was locked in a speed duel with Jamaican Smoke in the six-furlong Victory Ride. The 3-10 favorite gave way early after a :21.46 opening quarter mile and faded to finish fifth, 12 1/2 lengths behind the victorious 39-1 upsetter Emma's Encore.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Rodriguez when asked about Agave Kiss' uncharacteristically poor effort after six dominant victories. “I’m still looking for it. I’m going to (draw a line through the race). Hopefully, she’ll do it, too. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’ll pretend it was a bad dream. It was kind of disappointing, but thankfully she came back good, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed."
Runaway winner of the Miss Preakness Stakes May 18, Agave Kiss retains the services of leading Saratoga jockey Ramon Dominguez. The chestnut filly will leave from post 6 carrying co-top weight of 122 pounds.
The Prioress features the first three finishers from the Victory Ride. Brenda Mercer's Emma's Encore, trained by the Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, had only one previous stakes appearance before her surprising 2 3/4-length tally. In that one, the daughter of Congrats finished last of eight in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) March 31, more than 22 lengths behind Grace Hall.
Jerkens said Emma's Encore, pegged at 4-1 for the Prioress, is also under consideration for the Test Stakes (gr. I) at seven furlongs Aug. 25 at Saratoga.
“She'll have to do even better if she’s going to get this one,” said Jerkens. “If she runs in this one, we won’t run in the Test. You never know how the track is going to play, if it’s going to be playing speed. That’s why they don’t win them all, but you got to take a chance. If she could do it, it’d be some feather in her cap, a grade I.”
In the Victory Ride, Emma's Encore sat patiently for Junior Alvarado near the rear of the pack as the front-runners cut wicked splits. Angled out for the drive, she swept past impressively to win going away. With Agave's Kiss and Jamaican Smoke back for the Prioress, a similar tempo is quite possible. Alvarado retains the mount on the Florida-bred dark bay filly, who drew the rail this time around.
Jamaican Smoke, trained by Eddie Kenneally for Glencrest Farm, held gamely into the final sixteenth of a mile before settling for second in the Victory Ride. That was the stakes debut for the Latent Heat miss, who came into the race with a sharp victory over first-level allowance foes at Churchill Downs July 7. Jose Lezcano will be aboard the bay filly for the first time and they will break from post 3 as the 3-1 morning line second pick for her fifth lifetime start.
“She ran well (in the Victory Ride); we were very pleased,” Kenneally said. “She got caught up in a speed duel but didn’t quit in the lane. She was very gallant and kept running to the wire. She’s an inexperienced filly, but that race should help her from an experience standpoint.”
Brereton Jones' homebred Tu Endie Wei overcame a stumble at the start of the Victory Ride to finish a game third. The Johar filly is a three-time stakes winner on Polytrack at Woodbine and was making her initial start on dirt at Belmont for trainer Reade Baker. Julian Leparoux has the return call on Tu Endie Wei, who also carries 122 pounds and is listed at 6-1 odds.
“I think that she’ll end up running her best races on dirt, not Polytrack,” Baker said. “Given that she had some mucus that day and got shuffled at the start, that might have been the best race of her life.”
Judy the Beauty, owned and trained by Wesley Ward, showed a liking for Saratoga with a runner-up finish to Grace Hall in last Septembers's Spinaway Stakes (gr. I). The Ghostzapper offspring has started once since then, finishing second in a five-furlong allowance/optional claiming race June 14 on the turf at Churchill Downs. The Ontario-bred won the first three starts of her career, including one in France on grass in May of last year. Joel Rosario has the call on the 6-1 shot.
The Prioress field also includes Livi Makenzie, fourth in the Iowa Oaks (gr. III) June 30, and stakes winner Jazzy Idea, runner-up in the Lady Charles Town Stakes last time.
$300,000 Prioress Stakes (G1)
Saturday, Saratoga Race Course, Race 9, 5:12 p.m. EDT
3-year-old fillies, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Emma's Encore (FL), J Alvarado, 120, H A Jerkens, 4-to-1
2. Livi Makenzie (KY), D Cohen, 116, R Moquett, 20-to-1
3. Jamaican Smoke (KY), J Lezcano, 118, E Kenneally, 3-to-1
4. Tu Endie Wei (KY), J R Leparoux, 122, R Baker, 6-to-1
5. Judy the Beauty (ON), J Rosario, 120, W A Ward, 6-to-1
6. Agave Kiss (NY), R A Dominguez, 122, R R Rodriguez, 8-to-5
7. Jazzy Idea (MD), J R Velazquez, 120, E W Merryman, 12-to-1