Head to Head: Handicapping Saratoga's G3 Shuvee

Head to Head: Handicapping Saratoga's G3 Shuvee
Photo: Liz Lamont / Eclipse Sportswire

The $200,000 Shuvee Stakes (G3) on Sunday at Saratoga is named in honor of early 1970’s two-time champion mare Shuvee. She won the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) twice, the only mare to have captured the prestigious event.

Many fillies and mares use the Shuvee as a springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. This year, a field of seven will travel 1 1/8-miles over the main track.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders.




Horologist kicked off 2021 with a victory in the listed Top Flight Invitational but finished off the board as the favorite in her subsequent two races. The Mott trainee has shown declining speed figures in her last five starts dating back to October of 2020. In her most recent start, Horologist was fifth behind winner and fellow entrant Crystal Ball. There’s a chance this daughter of Gemologist could turn it around, but I do not look for her to hit the board after her poor recent showings.

It doesn’t look like it on paper, but Horologist had an excuse in her last two races. She was stuck on the rail both times, which she absolutely hates. In her last race, she was clearly unhappy with tightly pinned ears. Joe Bravo had Mott trainee on a tight hold and had to tap on the breaks a few times. They finally found room to swing to the far outside around the turn, but Horologist decided enough was enough and was one-paced through the stretch, clocking in a well-beaten fifth. She breaks from the rail again today. The Shuvee isn’t Horologist’s time to shine. Pass.


2. GOLD SPIRIT (8-1)

Chilean Group 1 winner Gold Spirit makes her U.S. debut here. The daughter of Omayad (CHI) had a busy 2020, going 12: 3-4-1. With that in mind, I’m willing to draw a line through her last race in which she finished 8th, beaten by 18-lengths. She won her previous two races by a total of just under 20-lengths. While the competition in Chile isn’t as tough as it is here in the U.S., I think Gold Spirit will have a successful transition as it appears that Chad Brown has been drilling some speed into the filly.

Gold Spirit is the mystery horse. Brown worked her with Mother Goose (G1) runner-up Always Carina back in June, and Gold Spirit held her own. She wasn’t traveling quite as easily as her stablemate over the chewed-up track, yet was under a light hold. The work was a bullet breeze, so this one has some speed. In the Alberto Solari Magnasco, a Group 1 for fillies, Gold Spirit sat in fifth early in a strung-out field. She swept to the lead and quickly opened up. Gold Sprit was no match for the boys in the Group 1  St. Leger. As Ashley noted, Chad Brown’s been putting speed into Gold Spirit. Worth a longshot look.


3. LIBERTY M D (30-1)

This 4-year old daughter of Constitution might have been late to the party, only debuting in May, but she clearly knows how to win. She won both of her career races, though her speed figure did drop when stretching from 7-furlongs to a mile. Now she is stretching out another furlong…Pass.

By Constitution out of Grade 1 winning sprinter Dr Zic (by Milwaukee Brew) Liberty M D has the breeding to handle longer distances. That being said, her second career start wasn’t anything spectacular. Yes, she pushed the pacesetter through swift early fractions, but everyone was going up and down in the stretch. She reacted to the stick with angry tail swishes but managed to prevail. The runner-up returned to win at the same allowance level at Turfway. However, the step up in class and distance may be too much too soon. Pass.


4. DUNBAR ROAD (2-1)

While 5-years old, Dunbar Road should be nice and fresh for this start. The Quality Road mare only raced four times last year and has just one start this year, a fifth-place finish in the La Troienne (G1) on April 30. She did win her only prior start at Saratoga, the 2019 Alabama (G1). She has the class to win this, but race day fitness is a big question.

Dunbar Road had a challenging assignment in her 5-year-old debut, facing Shedaresthedevil and Finite. The Chad Brown charge made a bid in the stretch but couldn’t sustain the move. Dunbar Road has a slow/fast breeze pattern and logged a second-to-last five-furlong bullet. Although it wouldn’t be a surprise if she won, I think a runner-up position is more likely.   



Godolphin’s Antoinette has been successful on turf and dirt; however, she’s arguably better on the lawn since she has yet to actually win a dirt race. With that said, she also has never been off the board on the dirt. Look for her to round out the trifecta but stay away from playing her on top.


While it’s true that Antoinette hasn’t won on dirt, she finished a very good second to Letruska last out in the Fleur de Lis (G2). This field isn’t as strong, and if John Velazquez puts her on the lead, Antoinette could steal the race. Mott won the Shuvee in 2019 with Golden Award.



Crystal Ball enters undefeated in three starts in 2021. Her speed figures have been consistently in the mid to upper 90s, but that was against lesser competition. Last year she did run second, beaten by just a head, in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). Certainly one to use in all spots.

Crystal Ball makes her second start for former Mott assistant Rudy Brisset. The first start for Brisset was successful, and with that victory under her girth, Crystal Ball should be a favorite to win the Shuvee, right? But not so fast. Brisset is 0-16 with last-out winners making their second start off a layoff, although eight finished in the money. Something to think about.


7. ROYAL FLAG (5-2)

Last year Royal Flag was the Shuvee runner-up, checking in a length behind the classy Letruska. Saddled by Chad Brown, Royal Flag has never been out of the trifecta in her career. Most recently she was second by just a head in the Doubledogdare (G3) after being away from the starting gate for five months. Along with Horologist, Royal Flag has the fastest dirt speed in the field. Another to use in all spots.

I agree with Ashley on all points regarding Royal Flag. Definitely one to beat. Brown gets 41% win and 100% in the money with second off the layoff when the horse was in the money in their last start.



Final Thoughts

Laurie: The Shuvee favorite has prevailed only four times in the last decade; the last was in 2017. All winners were either pacesetters or pressers. Crystal Ball, Antionette and Liberty M D fit the running style profile. Of the three, I have the most confidence in Antionette. I like Crystal Ball too, and she would have been my top pick, but Brisset’s 0-16 record note above in similar spots gives me pause.


Ashley:  This looks to be the Chad Brown and Bill Mott show; the two trainers account for five of the seven runners in the field. Brown has the two favorites in Dunbar Road and Royal Flag. Those two will be chasing Horologist, Liberty M D, Antionette, and Crystal Ball. I expect Liberty M D to fold completely and Antoinette to pick up a minor check at best. Gold Spirit is the big unknown here, but she does not need a quick pace in order to be effective. This is a tough one, but I think I have to go with Royal Flag.












#7 ROYAL FLAG (5-2)


#4 DUNBAR ROAD (2-1)


Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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