First run in 2004, the De La Rose has served up some excitement in its short life. An ungraded stakes for fillies and mares four and up on the turf, the De La Rose keeps alive the name of an accomplished filly about whom we don’t talk much these days.
A daughter of Nijinsky, De La Rose was the female turf champion of 1981, at age three. That year, she was second in the Kentucky Oaks and Flower Bowl; she won seven stakes races, including the grade I Hollywood Derby. She also won the Athenia, the Saranac, the Long Branch, the Diana, the Lamb Chop, and the E.P. Taylor. She won on both coasts and in two countries, on turf and dirt, beating colts and fillies en route to eight victories in fifteen starts as a three-year-old.
Last year, this race furnished one of the most exciting finishes of the meet. Go to CalRacing to watch the replay (you have to register, but it’s free); watch the side view first, then watch the head on (Saratoga, August 1, 2007, race 9). Fantastic Shirl (a half sister to Shakespeare) sits well, well off the pace (as did De La Rose regularly, according to the race reports I read), and then, under John Velazquez, went four or five wide in the stretch, ducked towards an apparent hole, didn’t go through, went further towards the rail, and squeeeeezed through horses to fly to the finish line. She was awesome, as was Velazquez’s ride; horse and rider were gutsy and creative. It’s worth a look.
Wednesday, it was literally noses on the wire as Carriage Trail came up to just nip Trouble Maker…the photo finish shows barely any space between their noses as they hit the finish. Carriage Trail looked pretty boxed in coming around the turn, but Prado brought her out really wide, and it looked like she played a little bumper cars with Lady Carlock in the stretch. Once she got clear, she flew and would have beaten Trouble Maker by much more with more distance; she got lucky that she got there today.
Another stakes race with a short history is Thursday’s John Morrissey, named for the man responsible for bringing Thoroughbred racing to Saratoga. He died young, but fittingly at the Adelphi Hotel in May of 1878; he is the quintessential American dream, rags to riches story, coming from Ireland to Troy, NY with his family when he was two, and making his living by boxing, gambling, and other adventurous jobs before establishing a racetrack in Saratoga and going on to serve in New York State government. In They’re Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga, Ed Hotaling tells us that more than fifteen thousand people gathered in Troy for his funeral. Today, we’ll raise a glass to him in the place for which he is responsible, and for which we are so grateful. It makes sense that it’s a race for state-bred horses; Gold and Roses won it in 2006 and 2007.