No one in the field will duplicate the rare achievement of the namesake of the Personal Ensign Stakes. Then again, that’s no insult to any of the nine starters in Saturday’s stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Personal Ensign is revered as the last major horse to finish with an undefeated record and, while all of Saturday’s entrants have endured the sting of defeat, the latest edition of the Personal Ensign Stakes Presented by Lia Infiniti promises to be an exciting affair with several of the sport’s top fillies and mares battling it out. The race is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” prep for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff).
1. Dunbar Road (20-1 morning-line odds): Her best day was at Saratoga when she won the 2019 Alabama Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (in the mud), and that’s her main selling point here. She’s won only two of eight starts since then and was fifth in both of her 2021 starts. She’ll need to take a big step forward to be a major factor in this race, even with a fondness for the surface.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Chad Brown
2. As Time Goes By (6-1): You must remember this, she ships in from California for trainer Bob Baffert who has a history of big days on the Travers card. She stumbled at the start last time and never was a major threat in the Clement L. Hirsch. She usually flashes early speed, which paints her as a rival for Letruska in the early stages. Except for her troubled trip last time, she usually turns in a strong effort and cannot be overlooked here.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
3. Bonny South (10-1): She never fired in the Delaware Handicap, which is forgivable since it was her first race there and she may not have liked the track. She’s training sharply since then and should be a stretch threat here with a lively pace figuring to unfold in front of her. She was second to Letruska two starts back in the Ogden Phipps Stakes.
JOCKEY: Manny Franco; TRAINER: Brad Cox
4. Swiss Skydiver (7-2): The popular 2020 Preakness winner needed the race when she finished fourth against males in the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes and should benefit from that trip around the track. She won the Alabama here last year and figures to be ready for another big effort at the Spa in this spot.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
5. Royal Flag (10-1): She’s coming off a win on this main track in the Grade 3 Shuvee Stakes and has never been worse than third in 10 career starts. She certainly has the credentials to figure in the superfecta but is facing a very tough field in her Grade 1 debut and may be a slight cut below the favorites.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Chad Brown
6. Letruska (6-5): Here’s your favorite and definitely the one to beat. She’s won her last three starts, two of them in Grade 1 stakes, and is in outstanding form. She has the speed to be on the lead early and enough talent to be in front from start-to-finish. It’s Saratoga, where anything can happen, but after watching her cruise to victory in her last two starts, she will be very tough to beat here. She won the Shuvee at today’s distance at the Spa a year ago, so she’s a proven commodity on the Saratoga main track.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.; TRAINER: Fausto Gutierrez
7. Miss Marissa (20-1): She won the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on the front-end last time but will face a much more serious early challenge here. Miss Marissa seems a cut below these.
JOCKEY: Daniel Centeno; TRAINER: Jim Ryerson
8. Harvey’s Lil Goil (8-1): She’s the most versatile runner in the field with stakes wins on turf and dirt. Her last six starts have come on turf, but she was third in the Alabama Stakes last year and should not be discounted here. If she can duplicate her recent turf form on dirt, she’ll be a major player. She’s in excellent hands with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and the meet’s leading rider, Luis Saez.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez; TRAINER: Bill Mott
9. Grateful Princess (15-1): A winner of the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth last time, landing the outside post diminishes her chances against such a stellar field.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
THE PICK: Letruska
LIVE LONGSHOT: Bonny South