Five Key Takeaways from Saratoga's Opening Weekend

The field for the Coaching Club American Oaks leaves the starting gate at Saratoga, with eventual winner Monomoy Girl (#4, pink jockey cap) vying for the early lead. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from opening weekend at Saratoga Race Course:

FILLY’S A CHAMP: Monomoy Girl almost surely secured the Eclipse Award as leading 3-year-old filly when she easily dispatched Midnight Bisou by three lengths in the Coaching Club American Oaks on Sunday for her fourth consecutive Grade 1 triumph. One of the most impressive aspects of her is the mental improvement she is making. Regular rider Florent Geroux noted that she is not looking around nearly as much as she did earlier in her career. “She’s was a little more focused through the end,” he said. “She’s always going to look around a little bit, just because that’s who she is.”

Gronkowski (Eclipse Sportswire)

GROWING OPTIMISM: Trainer Chad Brown is increasingly upbeat about the chances that Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets runner-up Gronkowski can make the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 25. The 3-year-old, returning from what Brown characterized as a minor setback, recorded his first workout in a month when he drilled four furlongs in 48.09 seconds on Saturday. He was timed by Mike Welsch, a clocker for Daily Racing Form. “The way Gronkowski went, I’m optimistic and hope he can make the Travers,” Brown said. Gronkowski’s Belmont performance was extraordinary considering that it was his first North American start and his first try on dirt.

BRAVAZO IMPRESSIVE: Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas loved what he saw as Bravazo produced his final work leading to the Haskell Invitational Stakes next Sunday at Monmouth Park. The Preakness Stakes runner-up breezed four furlongs in 48.77 seconds in company with promising 2-year-old Derby Day at the Oklahoma training track on Sunday. “What we’re trying to do is just put him on his toes for the Haskell,” Lukas said. He said Bravazo came out of the Triple Crown series well after running in all three legs and is on target for the Travers. “Some of them will flourish and get stronger and fill up, and he’s one of them,” he said.

SHE’S A BEAUTY: Handicappers would do well to watch for A Raving Beauty’s next start. Past performances will show she was third in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes on Saturday, but she could easily be 3-for-3 since coming to Chad Brown’s barn. She endured an extremely difficult trip under Irad Ortiz Jr., who thought he had an opening on the rail only to have it close just as quickly, costing him precious momentum. “She was steadied and, remarkably, still finished third,” Brown said. A Raving Beauty previously won the Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes by three lengths in her May 12 North American debut and got up by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 1 Longines Just A Game Stakes on June 9, both at Belmont Park.

SLUGGISH WORKER: Handicappers would do well not to be discouraged if they observe a series of mediocre to poor workouts from Sombeyay. With one exception, he showed little in the morning before winning the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes by a neck with a driving finish. “He’s always run better than he breezes,” said trainer Todd Pletcher after Sombeyay won for the second time in three career starts in the Sanford. “I’m perfectly happy with that as long as he’s healthy and happy and continues to perform in the afternoons.”

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