Trainer Rodolphe Brisset said he was pleasantly surprised to see Rockpaperscissors shake off eight months of rust with ease in her last out allowance score against older fillies, and he hopes the two-time winner can find a little extra in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course.
Last year, Paris Lights and Crystal Ball led a WinStar Stablemates Racing exacta in the CCA Oaks. Rockpaperscissors will try to make WinStar Stablemates Racing the first owner to notch back-to-back CCA Oaks victories since Godolphin with It’s Tricky (2011) and Questing (2012).
The lightly raced daughter of Distorted Humor fired off the bench in her two-turn debut in an off-the-turf allowance tilt on June 21 at Indiana Grand Race Course.
Piloted by Julien Leparoux, Rockpaperscissors appeared rank heading into the first turn as she settled into fifth along the rail. After chasing leisurely fractions down the backstretch, she asserted herself to the front in upper stretch under no coaxing and drew away a 9 3/4 length winner.
“She surprised us a little bit. She was a difficult filly to gallop. It wasn’t our usual pattern of workouts, but we decided to run her. It was just one of those things where we felt that we needed to run more than we need to keep breezing,” Brisset said. “So, we got lucky that the race came off the turf. She actually won very easily and she came back out of that race very good.”
In her prior start, Rockpaperscissors was a second-out winner when traveling a one-turn mile in September at Churchill Downs, winning by 3 1/2 lengths.
Rockpaperscissors arrives off a trio of sharp works over the Keeneland main track, including a half-mile bullet two works back over muddy going. But her toughest test yet awaits on Saturday as she takes on Malathaat, the undefeated winner of the Kentucky Oaks.
“She has two very fast works and showed us that she is getting fitter and fitter, but obviously, we know it’s a tough task,” Brisset said. “She’s by Distorted Humor, who is 27 years old so he’s on the end of his stud career and then the mare (Rockcide) is a half to (2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner) Funny Cide. There’s nothing wrong with trying to run one-two-three in a Grade 1.”
The chestnut daughter of American Pharoah is unbeaten in two starts, both of which took place against older fillies and mares over the Matt Winn Turf Course at Churchill Downs this spring. After wiring the field in her May 15 maiden score, defeating next-out winner Speightstown Shirl, Demodog displayed different tactics, coming from well off the pace to defeat winners six weeks later.
“She broke clean and then got banged over. She got pushed around after a couple steps out of the gate,” Brisset said of the recent score. “It looked like they were going fast enough to where we didn’t want to be up front. They went 46 and change and 1:10 flat, so she showed a new dimension there that we don’t have to be on the lead. But with the one hole, we will break and see what happens.”
After two starts against older fillies and mares, which both garnered an 82 Beyer Speed Figure, Demodog faces straight 3-year-old fillies in the Lake George.
“We loved the filly from the get-go,” Brisset said. “She got loose on the lead in her first start and was a bit green but got the job done. I think her second race I was little surprised by the number on that race, I thought it was faster than what it suggested, and it was a very salty race. It was a very good effort from her. We’re back in our age group in the Lake George.”
Brisset said the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (G1) on Aug. 21 could be in play with a sharp effort from Demodog.
“We want to know if we can aim for the Del Mar Oaks or if we shop around and try to get her to win a small stakes. She’s in the right spot to find out where she belongs,” Brisset said.
Demodog, bred in Kentucky by Lanni Bloodstock and Westport Management, is out of the Theatrical mare Turn the Tide. She is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Avanzare as well as Black Tide, a New York-bred stakes winner on both dirt and turf.
Brisset said CHC Inc. and WinStar Farm’s regally bred Harvard likely will target the $120,000 Curlin on July 30, but he did not rule out the $600,000 Jim Dandy (G2) on the following day.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile is a full brother to 2016 champion 2-year-old and freshman stallion Classic Empire.
After going one turn in his first two starts earlier this year, Harvard got quality education when displaying front-running speed and drawing away to a 4 1/2-length win at third asking on May 12 at Indiana Grand Race Course.
Harvard took his winning ways to Churchill Downs, defeating winners going nine furlongs on June 11 in a race that included Dack Janiel’s and Claytonthelionheart, who ran one-two in an Opening Day allowance at Saratoga.
“Going two turns was really the case. He’s not an easy horse, he’s a full brother to Classic Empire and everyone knows he wasn’t an easy horse to be around,” Brisset said. “This horse was the same, but he did mature pretty well. He didn’t look very happy when we sprinted him the first two times, just because that’s not what he wants to do. He’s a horse that shows some temper, so you have to be careful the way you manage him. Finally, we were able to get him in at Churchill going long so we decided to just go for the experience. He got a good experience on the lead and came back against older in what I thought was a very good race as well.”
“We’re on the right path, the horse is doing very well,” Brisset added. “As of now, we’re leaning toward the Curlin. We could enter in the Jim Dandy too, but that’s something that I will discuss with Mr. (Elliott) Walden (of WinStar Farm). He shipped in very well, may have one breeze here on Sunday and go from there.”
Brisset said he acquired graded-stakes placed Hozier from the Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age sale earlier this month.
After making his debut for Brisset when a distant ninth in the Ohio Derby (G3) on June 26 at Thistledown, Hozier bested a field of winners going one mile at Ellis Park one week later.
Hozier is out of the three-time graded stakes winning sprinter Merry Meadow.
“I think the cutback to a mile was key,” Brisset said. “The mare was a sprinter for (trainer) Mark Hennig and she didn’t want to go very far, she was more six or seven furlongs. I think maybe what he wants to do. Maybe a mile could fit. He went through the sale, and I bought him for some new clients so he’s back in our barn. We're going to give him another week of galloping and get a breeze and start to make a plan.”