A pair of long shots aim for first place at CCA Oaks in Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Early Thursday morning, outside barn 4 on the back stretch of Saratoga, Rob Atras, a 36-year-old man who has been training horses on his own since 2019, stood in front of the box of a metallic gray filly from 3 year old named Maracuja. He talked about the filly, said he hoped for nothing but the best for her on Saturday.

Same scenario half an hour later at the Oklahoma Training Track in a barn housing horses trained by Rodolphe Brisset, 34. He was happy to show off his 3-year-old Bay Rockpaperscissors, and she has some commonalities with Maracuja.

Both horses are racing in Saturday’s Class I, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Racetrack. And both have little to no chance of winning.

That’s because the CCA Oaks should be the home turf of the towering Malathaat, who is undefeated in five starts and is the 2-5 pick to make it six. The only horse in the four-horse field expected to challenge Malathaat is Clairiere, who is 9-5 on the morning line at CCA Oaks.

Maracuja is listed at 6-1 and Rockpaperscissors at 15-1.

The field would have been six, but two fillies trained by Kenny McPeek – Crazy Beautiful and Tabor Hall – are in quarantine and cannot race.


Atras and Brisset think the world of their fillies. They also know what a difficult chore awaits them.

“That’s a good question,” Atras said with a laugh when asked how he expected to pull off a colossal upset.

“I know it’s a big, big task,” Brisset said. “We take a hit.”

The winner’s share of the CCA Oaks Scholarship is $275,000. Second place wins $100,000, third place $65,000 and fourth place $30,000. Due to the size of the field, the rest of the purse money is returned to the track.

Honor Code daughter Maracuja was last seen finishing seventh behind Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on April 30. She hasn’t raced since.

Atras said the plan for his filly was an appointment in the Grade II Mother Goose at Belmont on June 26, but it didn’t work out.

“I had a virus in the stable and a few horses got sick,” Atras said. “It looked like (Maracuja) was about to do something, so rather than knocking him out for the summer, we decided to give him more time.”

Maracuja, who will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr. for the first time, is coming off a first win on his five-race resume. She finished second in the Grade III Gazelle in April.

Atras hopes Maracuja will be able to make a run when the peloton reaches the top of the stretch in the 1 1/8 mile race. What he will need is a fast pace to run, and he might not get it in that area.

Rockpaperscissors have the least experience, as this will only be their fourth start and second of the year. She won an allowance race at Indiana Grand on June 21 by 9 3/4 lengths.

The Distorted Humor girl blazed the rail in each of her first three starts; she will start from the third position at CCA Oaks. Brisset said that on her first three starts she had trouble leaving the gate although in the morning Rockpaperscissors come out of the gate like a rocket.

“No idea,” he said. “We can’t understand why she’s doing this.”

If she’s able to break clean and run her run, Brisset hopes Rockpaperscissors can outrun her odds, maybe put a charge in the Spa.

“Obviously we’re not going to be overconfident,” he said. “That would be a big mistake. We are not dummies. If we could run after (Malathaat), I would shake your hand and leave right away.

[email protected] • @tjwilkin

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