The Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga Race Course is one of the most important races on the calendar for older fillies and mares and bears the name of one of the sport of horse racing’s true iconic superstars.
Hall of Famer Personal Ensign is best remembered for powering through the stretch on a muddy track she reportedly detested to catch that year’s Kentucky Derby-winning filly Winning Colors at the finish line of the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff for her 13th win in as many starts. She retired unbeaten for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and owner-breeder Ogden Phipps.
Friday’s Personal Ensign Stakes is not in 2023 part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series, although it has been frequently in the past, but it remains an integral prep race for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff and drew a small but potent field of six.
personal ensign stakes
1. Idiomatic (3-1 morning-line odds): This regally-bred Juddmonte filly by Curlin out of a stakes-winning full-sister to champion Close Hatches has really emerged this year with five wins in six starts. This will be a class test as her first try in a Grade 1 but she enters off back-to-back fast wins against graded stakes competition. Looks legit.
2. Malloy (50-1): In deep water here as she returns to graded stakes competition for the first time since September 2021, 11 races ago, after winning an off-the-turf allowance-optional claiming race July 13 at Hawthorne. Appears outclassed on paper.
3. Secret Oath (8-1): Spaces her wins but is proven at this level and owns a pair of seconds in Grade 1 races on this main track. Received a freshening after a dull effort in the Ogden Phipps Stakes June 10. If she can get back to the form she showed in spring when second by a neck in both the Apple Blossom Handicap and La Troienne Stakes Presented by TwinSpires, Secret Oath is a win candidate.
4. Sixtythreecaliber (15-1): Enters off a sharp win in her first start at Saratoga on July 19, but that victory came in an allowance-optional claiming race and she was well-beaten in her only previous try in a Grade 1 race. A talented multiple stakes winner, just not sure she is quite up to this level of competition.
5. Nest (4-5): Last year’s champion 3-year-old filly won the Grade 2 Shuvee Stakes by 2 ¼ lengths July 23 on this track and at this distance in her first start of the year. She should take a step forward in her second race off the long layoff on a track where she sports a 3-for-3 record. Nest is also 4-for-6 at this 1 1/8-mile distance. A formidable favorite.
6. Clairiere (5-2): Four-time Grade 1 winner has had some great battles with Nest and Secret Oath over the last 10 months or so and enters off a second to Nest in the Shuvee after winning the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in April and Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes in June. Rarely fails to fire, but Clairiere is only 1-for-7 at this distance with one win in five starts at Saratoga.
THE PICK: Nest
LIVE LONGSHOT: Secret Oath