There’s something different about this year’s Personal Ensign Stakes, but, then again, there isn’t. Traditionally the 1 1/8-mile stakes for older fillies and mares has been contested on the final August weekend of the Saratoga meet. But with COVID-19 turning racing schedules upside down, the Personal Ensign was moved to the first Saturday in August and will be part of a stellar card that also includes the $750,000 Whitney Stakes. What remains the same, however, is the quality of the fillies who will be heading into the starting gate, with a berth to the Nov. 7 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on the line. Leading the way will be the spectacular Midnight Bisou, who won last year’s Personal Ensign and will be heavily favored to make it two straight wins in the important Grade 1 test.
personal ensign stakes
1. Abounding Joy (20-1 morning-line odds): She was an impressive winner of a Prairie Meadows stakes last time, but this is a big jump in company and a huge ask for a mare who will be racing in a graded stakes for the first time. We’ll pass.
2. Motion Emotion (20-1): She tackled Midnight Bisou last time out and finished second, albeit by 6 ¼ lengths. Even at “The Graveyard of Champions” it’s hard to picture her beating Midnight Bisou here, but she’s certainly capable of filling a spot in the trifecta with her stalking running style and Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.
3. Midnight Bisou (2-5): It would have been interesting to see her take on the boys again by running in the Whitney, but perhaps that will come down the road in the Breeders’ Cup. Until then, we’ll have to be content to see her brilliance on display against fillies and mares. Her runner-up finish in the Saudi Cup against some of the best horses in the world was an outstanding performance and she showed no signs of skipping a beat when she cruised to victory in the Fleur de Lis Stakes in her return to the United States. She won this race in 2019 en route to becoming the champion older female and her rivals will be hard-pressed to deny her an encore on Saturday.
4. Vexatious (5-1): Turned in a sharp effort against the division’s other glamour gal when she was a competitive second to Monomoy Girl in the Ruffian Stakes at Belmont Park. That was by far her best effort since switching to dirt and if she can duplicate that performance here, she will definitely be a threat to take home a nice chunk of purse money.
5. Bossy Bride (50-1): She’s won two of her last three starts by a combined 16 ½ lengths, which sounds great. But one was in a claimer and the other came in a starter allowance. She’s definitely venturing into the deep end of the pool and seems overmatched against this field.
6. Point of Honor (5-2): This daughter of Curlin is definitely the main rival with four placings in her last four tries in Grade 1 stakes. The problem is that while she’s super consistent and quite competitive, she finished second or third in all four of those races. She only lost by a nose last time out in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes and based on that race, if Saratoga proves treacherous once again for a favorite, she’s the one most likely to benefit.
THE PICK: Midnight Bisou
LIVE LONGSHOT: Motion Emotion