Malathaat’s latest favorite beaten in Saratoga in American Oaks Coaching Club


SARATOGA SPRINGS – This was supposed to be a slam dunk.

The Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks was all about Malathaat, the nation’s top 3-year-old filly. The other three seemingly outmatched fillies in the field for the 11/8 mile race had to fight for second place.

Then Saratoga happened.

There have been dozens of thrilling upsets in the 153 years of Thoroughbred racing at Saratoga Racetrack. Man o’War lost here. So did the Triple Crown winners, Gallant Fox and Secretariat. Six years ago, another Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah, couldn’t win the Travers. Many others.

On Saturday afternoon in Spa, the main track opened up and engulfed another horse we didn’t expect to lose. Malathaat probably won’t go down in history like some of her Spa-losing predecessors, but when she lost the CCA Oaks, it was more than a mild surprise.

She was the 1-5 favorite after winning the first five starts of her career.

His attempt to make it six was not to be as Maracuja, the longest Price on the short board at 14-1, had a match run with Malathaat for the final sixteenth of a mile. And, to the surprise of the 30 184s at Spa, it was Maracuja, racing on the outside, who pushed the lead forward to secure the improbable victory.

When it was over, a muffled silence hovered over the Spa grounds for just a few seconds. Did this really just happen? Oh, yes, it just happened.

Maracuja coach Rob Atras, 36, was jubilant but stunned as he headed into the winner’s circle. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting something that big because he wasn’t wearing his Grade I duds. Yankees off the top of his head.

The man everyone thought would win, coach Todd Pletcher, was dressed to perfection in a smart blue suit. But there would be no party for Pletcher, who left the winner’s circle and spoke with jockey John Velazquez.

Pletcher headed straight for the paddock, where he had to saddle a horse for the next race. And, of course, he won it. With a 10-1 shot named Midnight Worker.

“She ran really well,” Pletcher said of Malathaat as he soaked up the sting while waiting in the paddock. “She just got a little tired in the last part.”

Having a loss on the resume was the hardest part for Pletcher.

“It’s the most disappointing thing,” he said. “I feel bad for her to have suffered that first defeat, but she was gone in defeat.”

Malathaat used to be on the other side of tough decisions. She won the prestigious Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs by a neckline and won the Ashland at Keeneland by a header. Both of these races are also Grade I.

The CCA Oaks were his first start since the Kentucky Oaks on April 30, a gap of 85 days. Pletcher said the layoff may have contributed to the loss, but Maracuja has also not run since then.

Malathaat set fast first splits of 23.38 seconds for the quarter mile and 47.13 for the half. She was harassed early on by Clairiere, the 5-2 second choice, and she and Irad Ortiz Jr. were still pressuring Malathaat as they finished three quarters in 1:11.02.

Clairiere was over but Malathaat had a new challenge from Maracuja, and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Malathaat couldn’t hold back his upset rival.

“She was comfortable in what she was doing,” Velazquez said. “But she had to fight all the way and obviously set it up for someone else.”

It was the first rank I victory for Atras and for the metallic gray Maracuja. She had just one first win under her belt and was 7 1/2 lengths behind Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks.

“I didn’t really think I could beat that filly, to be honest,” Atras said. “The way the race went, maybe it softened a bit. When they got home, it looked like we had a chance for second place. the wire was getting close, she really put it down. That filly Todd… I didn’t think we were going to get away with it. But our filly also fought to the wire.

Maracuja is owned by Beach Haven Thoroughbreds and they had a healthy crowd in the winner’s circle. As the group watched the replay on the large infield panel, they let out a victory cry when the finish was shown.

“We won it again,” Atras said, speaking to the media, with a smile.

Maracuja completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.29 in the fast lane and paid $31.40 and $6.00. There was no show bet.

Rockpaperscissors, the other rider in the field of four, loosened up in the stretch and drove off.

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