Friday, August 22, 2014

Close Hatches blows competition away in G1 Personal Ensign

The New York Racing Association, Inc.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Close Hatches blows competition away in G1 Personal Ensign


By Jon Forbes


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In June, Close Hatches was all out to win the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps by a head at Belmont Park. On Friday at Saratoga Race Course, the 4-year-old went to the lead and never looked back, running away to a dominant five-length victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares.


Close Hatches was favored at 9-5 in the Personal Ensign against six competitors, all graded stakes winners, including four-time Grade 1 winner and Ogden Phipps runner-up Princess of Sylmar. After racing in second outside of Antipathy during the opening stages, Close Hatches claimed the top spot on the first turn after the early leader was taken firmly in hand by her rider.


Ahead by 2 ¼ lengths through an opening quarter-mile in 23.05 seconds, Close Hatches dictated a steady pace along the backstretch, running the half in 46.61 over the muddy, sealed main track. She held a two-length advantage through three-quarters in 1:11.12 and drew clear in the stretch under hand urging from jockey Joel Rosario.


Fiftyshadesofhay finished second and was 3 ¾ lengths clear of third-place finisher Stanwyck. Antipathy, second choice Princess of Sylmar, Belle Gallantey, and Majestic River completed the order of finish.


Close Hatches, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott for Juddmonte Farms, returned $5.90 for a $2 win bet and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.62. The Personal Ensign was her third straight Grade 1 victory and fifth of her career.


"I did not expect it to be wire-to-wire. It looked like another horse was going to go to the lead," said Rosario. "It looked like Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] took a little hold [of Antipathy] and I just took my position. Turning for home, I expected Princess of Sylmar to show up, but she didn't. [My horse] looked good out there; she was doing it nice and easy and it was a good race for her. She's a nice filly with a long stride. I'm not surprised she went that fast."


As a 3-year-old, Close Hatches won the Grade 1 Mother Goose and Grade 1 Cotillion and was second to Beholder in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff. She opened her 4-year-old season with victories in the Grade 2 Azeri and Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park before defeating Princess of Sylmar and Antipathy in a blanket finish in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Beholder, the 2013 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly, was fourth in the Phipps.


Overall, Close Hatches is 9-2-0 in 12 starts. The $300,000 winner's share of the Personal Ensign purse enhanced her bankroll to $2,682,300.


"She's already a Grade 1 winner, and she just carried on that tradition today," said Mott.


Trainer Todd Pletcher made no excuses for Princess of Sylmar, who entered the Personal Ensign off a second to Belle Gallantey in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap on July 12.


"It seemed like she was in a decent position and handling [the mud] pretty well," said Pletcher. "She's run OK on an off track before."



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