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Saratoga and Del Mar 2017

Ask The Moon Tops Personal Ensign

Ask the Moon, the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course, reminds trainer Martin Wolfson a lot of another top-shelf winner he had, Jessica Is Back.


Both mares were claims by trainer Gary Contessa for Farnsworth Stables and soon sent to Wolfson and went on to win Grade 1 races.


Jessica Is Back went for $50,000 in April 2009 and became a steady stakes performer before taking the Grade 1 Princess Rooney the following year at Calder Race Course. Ask the Moon was claimed for $75,000 this past June at Belmont Park and two races later won the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap on July 31 at Saratoga .


On Sunday, the 6-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon will attempt to repeat at the Grade 1 level against five others in the Personal Ensign.


“She’s training very well,” Wolfson said. “We claimed her because we – me and the owners – love [her sire] Malibu Moon. She was one of those hard-knocking mares and she fit the program.”


In her first race for her new connections, Ask the Moon flashed her high speed in the one-turn $60,000 Sky Beauty at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park before fading to third. She went from Contessa to Wolfson’s barn for her next start and led gate-to-wire, beating runner-up Super Espresso in the Ruffian by 5 ¾ lengths.


“She was speed crazy going one turn,” Wolfson said of the run in the Sky Beauty on July 1. “It was a good race to observe her. I liked the way the race at Saratoga fell into place. She’s really relaxing better, and I think the two turns help her.”


Wolfson won the Personal Ensign two years ago with Icon Project, who crushed her foes by 13 lengths. The trainer has confidence in Ask the Moon but doesn’t predict that kind of giant score.


“It’s her first time 1 ¼ miles,” he said. “She seems like she’ll go that far.”


An interesting wild card in the Personal Ensign is Pachattack, a 5-year-old daughter of Pulpit making her first dirt start after 23 races on turf and artificial surfaces.


Trained by Gerard Butler, the English mare finished eighth in the Grade 1 Beverly D. on August 13 at Arlington Park . Prior to that, she dominated the Grade 3 Arlington Matron at 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack, winning by six lengths in her American debut.


She also won at the 1 ¼-mile Personal Ensign distance on the Woodbine Polytrack last year in an ungraded stakes race.


“She’s very, very good,” said Butler ’s assistant trainer, Andrew Morris, who has Pachattack stabled in Todd Pletcher’s barn at Saratoga . “The decision to try dirt was between the owner [M.V. Deegan] and trainer. She’s by Pulpit out of a stakes-producing mare. She has broodmare potential. We don’t know how she’ll perform until we try her on it, but all she has to do is translate her form from the Polytrack and she’ll perform well.”


Pachattack is 4-1 on the morning line.


Second choice at 3-1 is Super Espresso, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and trained by Pletcher. She finished second in the Ruffian, third two races back in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park and won the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff on Preakness Day at Pimlico.


Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will send out Juddmonte Farms’ Acronym, second last out in an overnight stakes race at 1 1/8 miles on August 5 at Saratoga . She has a win and a second-place finish in two starts at Saratoga , and beat Life At Ten by 6 ¼ lengths on the track in 2009 when trained by the late Bobby Frankel.


“We’re going!” Mott said of Acronym, 6-1 on the morning line. “She’s put in some nice races early in her career. She’s had a lot of layoff lines. She had minor things that bugged her, trouble with her feet.”


Completing the field are Delaware Park-based Tiz Miz Sue, 4-1, third in the Ruffian for trainer Steve Hobby; and Protesting, 8-1, a 5 ¾-length winner in an optional claimer on July 27 at the Spa for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.


The field for the Grade 1, $300,000 Personal Ensign:








Super Espresso (KY)

R A Dominguez


T A Pletcher



Tiz Miz Sue (KY)

J Rocco, Jr.


S Hobby



Ask the Moon (MD)

J Castellano


M D Wolfson



Pachattack (KY)

J Alvarado


G A Butler



Acronym (KY)

J Lezcano


W I Mott



Protesting (KY)

J R Velazquez


C R McGaughey III




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