Maracuja looks to start over, this time in Alabama at Saratoga


SARATOGA SPRINGS – It happened once. This will not happen again.

When Saratoga’s competition started, every 3 year old filly in the country had to bow to the eye-catching sight of Malathaat. He is a unique looking thoroughbred specimen with a diamond-shaped flame between his eyeballs. And she runs as impressive as she looks.

She won her first five career starts, and the smart money was on her to reach 6 for 6 when she arrived at summer school in Saratoga.

On the way to that perfect half-dozen, Malathaat was beaten. The Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks was not hers for the second Saturday of the Spa competition. This is because the filly that no one expected to win won.

Metallic gray girl Maracuja pulled off the unlikely upheaval when she got her head in front of Malathaat on that sunny July 24 afternoon. Four fillies raced in the CCA Oaks; Maracuja was the longest prize in the table at 14-1. Those who believed were paid.

Malathaat was the 1-5 favorite.

Rob Atras, Maracuja’s coach, has benefited from the lingering victory over the past 25 days. Now, however, it’s time to play again. And the question he’s been asked for the past four weeks is simple. Can she do it again?

So can she?

“Can lightning strike twice? I don’t know,” Atras said with a smile outside his barn in Clare Court, which is part of the back stretch of Saratoga.

Entering the Coaching Club American Oaks, Atras, 36, knew how intimidating the mountain was for his horse to climb. Now here’s another one. Saturday’s Class I, $ 600,000 in Alabama at 1 1/4 miles, is the first race of the summer for 3-year-old fillies. The Alabama is an eighth of a mile longer than the CCA Oaks.

Malathaat will be the favorite when the seven fillies enter the starting grid, but know this: she will have to contend with Maracuja.

Atras takes the low lane again as he heads into the toughest test yet for his hardworking filly.

“She will have to run an A-plus race to tackle this filly again,” said Atras. “I think she’s ready. I don’t know if we can beat her, but I think she’ll have a good race, judging by the way she’s training.”

After the hard-fought victory in the CCA Oaks, Atras thought Maracuja might be wiped out a bit.

But Atras did not see his filly lying around in the barn; his tongue was not hanging from his knees.

“She actually did very well,” he said. “It’s important because she ran so hard. Sometimes they need a little bit of time between races and we were able to continue with her and get ready for (Alabama).”

Maracuja has won two of his five starts this year. It will again be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., who was aboard the CCA Oaks for the first time. In his three previous starts, Maracuja’s partner was Kendrick Carmouche, but he’s recovering from a broken right ankle.

Maracuja is owned by John Sakkos’ Beach Haven Thoroughbreds, which has only been around for four years.

This weekend, the whole team has the chance to sweep the two big races for 3-year-old fillies at Spa. If Maracuja is able to do so, she will climb to first place in the division.

“I expect and hope she will make another high level effort,” Atras said. “She probably gets a little more respect, but I think the other filly is a deserving favorite. We know what Maracuja is, but I think everyone will probably think she has to start over to prove herself. And it’s good.”

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