SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Beautiful Pleasure gained a one-race advantage yesterday in her rivalry with Heritage of Gold.
A pair of 5-year-old mares, they met for the fifth time in the Grade I $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga before a sun-drenched crowd of 23,775. In four previous meetings, each had finished in front of the other twice.
Beautiful Pleasure led all the way for a commanding five-length victory. The loss was the first of the year after five wins for Heritage of Gold, who perhaps struggled in her first attempt at 1 1/4 miles on dirt.
Last year's Eclipse-Award-winning older mare, Beautiful Pleasure was the 4-5 favorite despite losses to Heritage of Gold in the Go For Wand Handicap on July 30 at Saratoga and in the Apple Blossom Handicap April 9 at Oaklawn Park. Heritage of Gold was the even-money second choice in the five-horse field.
The victory kept Beautiful Pleasure in the running for a second Eclipse Award, although before year's end she would likely have to beat Heritage of Gold again. If they remain healthy, they would meet in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
"Let's say the crown didn't fall off yet," said Donna Ward, her husband John's assistant trainer and Beautiful Pleasure's exercise rider. "Every race with her is exciting, because I think she's the chance of a lifetime. I want to make sure I savor each one of them."
Beautiful Pleasure has won 10 of 19 races and earned nearly $2.5 million. Yesterday, she won racing wide. Donna Ward said that that's the way she rides the mare in the mornings.
Heritage of Gold crossed under the wire third, but was elevated to second when Back in Shape, the apparent runner-up, was disqualified to fourth. Back in Shape interfered with Pentatonic in the stretch. The official order of finish became Beautiful Pleasure, Heritage of Gold, Pentatonic, Back in Shape and Up We Go.
Beautiful Pleasure paid $3.80 to win and completed 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 3.77 seconds. The exacta returned $5.60.
Voss savors victory
Trainer Tom Voss is still flush with victory - the victory Aug. 12 by his 9-year-old gelding, John's Call, in the Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga.
Voss' trainee became the oldest horse to win a Grade I flat race at Saratoga. He also earned the highest Beyer Speed Figure, 112, of any horse this year in a turf race.
Stabled at Saratoga for these two months, but usually based at his farm in Monkton, Voss said that John's Call would race next Sept. 9 in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park.
Chilukki wins again
Chilukki, winner of last year's Eclipse Award as outstanding 2-year-old filly, won yesterday at Saratoga for only the second time as a 3-year-old.
Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Jerry Bailey, Chilukki won a $50,000 allowance race by 1 1/4 lengths. As the 1-2 favorite, she posted sizzling fractions before completing the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15, three-fifths of a second off the track record.