Gamine impressive in Test win at Saratoga

Gamine with John Velazquez wins the Longine Test Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course Saturday Aug.8, 2020 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo by Skip Dickstein/Tim Lanahan/Special to the Times Union

The simple plan between a pair of Hall of Famers heading into Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies was to allow their West Coast shipper Gamine to break well from the gate and let her do “her thing.”

Jockey John Velazquez did just that aboard the Bob Baffert-trained flawless filly and together they bested four others by seven lengths from gate to wire to complete seven furlongs in 1:20.83 over the main track listed as fast. The final time equaled the stakes record set by Lady Tak in 2003.

“That filly, she is just spectacular,” Baffert said by phone from California. “If you put her in the gate, she will show her stuff. She is really something. I liked her better going into this race than (the Acorn). She just ran. She was really professional today.

“I was worried about Venetian Harbor. She is a fast filly. Gamine was just in a high gallop. She reminded me of Justify.”

From the break, Gamine took the advantage with her challenger Venetian Harbor to her outside. Together the pair traveled five- and six-wide down the backstretch before heading into the turn after a quarter-mile was run in 22.70 seconds.

Venetian Harbor remained to Gamine’s outside through the half-mile in 45.14, and was put to a drive, but after three-quarters were run in 1:08.64, Velazquez gave a slight tap and a look back and Gamine kicked clear to victory in hand over a game Venetian Harbor, who held the place by 6 ½ lengths over third-place finisher Up in Smoke.

The victory was the fourth in as many starts, and the second consecutive Grade I victory after the filly by Into Mischief beat a field of six others in the Grade I Acorn by a runaway 18¾ lengths at Belmont Park on the June 20 on the Belmont Day undercard.

Baffert, who now owns 10 wins in 17 Grade I starts at Saratoga, has plenty of options with Kentucky-bred filly who could face males in the near future. For now, the California-based trainer will point to the Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on Sept. 4.

“I have not even thought about (running her against males),” Baffert said. “All I am thinking about is getting her ready to run in the Oaks.”

Gamine paid $2.60 to win.


Last year’s Grade I Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress proved that speed could be a deadly weapon, earning her second career Grade I victory in Saturday’s $300,000 Ballerina Stakes, besting six others by one length in 1:21.63 for the seven furlongs under jockey Luis Saez.

The 4-year-old by Alternation made six consecutive starts going longer, but was cut back to sprinting for the first time since falling short by a half-length to Covfefe in last year’s Test Stakes at Saratoga. The Thomas Amoss-trained filly blazed through an opening quarter in 21.75, and a half-mile in 43.74, after missing the break, but was resolute when it seemed she might be vulnerable in the late stretch run. Despite efforts made by the closing favorite Bellafina under Jose Ortiz to her outside, Serengeti Empress found another gear, forcing Bellafina to settle for second over Victim of Love, who checked in for third.

“That was very valiant,” Amoss said. “I really thought that opening half-mile was going to be her doing in. What we learned is that this is a real good middle-distance filly. Speed is her game, and she used it today. I look forward to staying at the seven-eighths distance, maybe getting one more start in before the Breeders’ Cup.”

Serengeti Empress paid $8.30 to win.


Location proved key for Saturday’s Grade III Troy Stakes runner-up American Sailor, who was awarded victory after a steward’s inquiry determined that 2 ¼-length winner Imprimis and jockey Jose Ortiz interfered with third-place finisher Shekky Shebaz.

The victory was the first graded stakes win for both trainer Wayne Potts and the 8-year-old gelding by City Zip, who bested Shekky Shebaz by a head in a photo for second.

American Sailor returned $16.80 to win.


French-bred My Sister Nat earned her first victory in the United States by closing to win the Grade III Waya Stakes by a neck over the favored Mrs. Sippy in a final time of 2:30.26 for the 1½ miles over the inner turf under Jose Ortiz for trainer Chad Brown.

The mare by Acclamation paid $6.90 to win.

Anthony Affunti is a freelance writer.

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