John Oxley's Catherinethegreat led from gate to wire in Friday's Schuylerville, earning her first graded stakes victory by several lengths under jockey Jose Ortiz. The juvenile daughter of Uncaptured, off as the second choice at 3-1, covered six furlongs in 1:09.98 over Saratoga's fast main track. Trained by Mark Casse, Catherinethegreat has now won two of her three starts for earnings of $136,000.
Catherinethegreat broke from the rail under jockey Jose Ortiz and sat an unhindered trip while rival Nonna Madeline, the 2-1 favorite, broke last before being sent up under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez in the field of 10.
Following an opening quarter-mile in 21.78 seconds, Catherinethegreat covered the half-mile in 44.64 and five-eighths of a mile in 56.92. Ortiz, aboard for the first time, set his filly down and took command through the stretch over Nonna Madeline, who held the runner-up spot by three-quarters of a length over Congrats Gal.
“Unfortunately, with the break we didn't have a whole lot of choice but to go,” Casse said. “I talked to Jose about her this morning and I said if she breaks, you might have to go. It didn't hurt our feeling that [Nonna Madeline] got away a little slow because she most likely would of hooked up with her early. I was nervous when I first saw the fractions and, after, I thought she's a pretty good horse. Jose's a top rider. He's one of the best in the world. I don't try to give too many instructions. I just try to get the best riders I can and let them to their job.”
The victory was the second straight for the gray Florida-bred filly after she broke her maiden by 10 1/4 lengths in the slop on June 23 at Gulfstream Park, her second start after finishing second in her debut less than a month prior, also in the slop.
Returning $8.40 for a $2 win wager, Catherinethegreat was one of three horses Casse saddled in the race. His other two entries, Eyeinthesky and Tapping Pearl, finished sixth and ninth, respectively. His son Norman, recently out on his own after serving as Mark's longtime assistant, saddled seventh-place finisher Fightress.
“It's weird [to run against his son], but it's a great feeling,” Casse said. “Here we are at Saratoga, it doesn't get any better at Saratoga. The only thing that would've been better is if my dad had been here. … I've been watching the Schuylerville since I was a little boy and to think there were four Casse horses in there; it doesn't get much better than that.”
Runner-up Nonna Madeline finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Congrats Gal in third. Serengeti Empress, Lady Apple, Eyeinthesky, Fightress, Lonely Road, Tapping Pearl, and Blame the Frog completed the order of finish.
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