'It gets you pretty excited'; Guarana off to a flying start

June 17, 2019 10:19am

While Guarana got a later-than-usual start to her racing career, the 3-year-old filly has made up for lost time with two stellar performances, including a Grade 1 score.

The Three Chimneys homebred is coming off a resounding June 8 victory in Belmont Park’s Acorn Stakes (G1). She blazed 1:33.58 that afternoon over a mile on Big Sandy’s main track, routing the field by six lengths.

That performance followed her debut April 19 at Keeneland, where Guarana dispatched of maiden special weight company by a whopping 14 3/4 lengths.

“The way she’s running, it gets you pretty excited,” Three Chimneys vice chairman Doug Cauthen said.

Guarana quickly shot to the top of her division after not racing at 2 and then not starting her 3-year-old season in time to join the Kentucky Oaks trail.

Cauthen said Guarana is typical of many of her sire Ghostzapper’s progeny in that “they usually take a little more time.”

“Every time you’d kind of push along in the spring (of 2018), she’d say, ‘Slow down,’” Cauthen said. “She never went out of training. She just wasn’t ready to do fast work. She just put in easy miles and jogged a lot and galloped.

“Bill and Lynn Recio had her at Lynwood Stable in Ocala. They just did a good job saying, ‘Hey, she’s not quite ready to go.’ But they kept her in light training.”

Guarana started doing speed work as the summer went on, Cauthen said, and moved to trainer Chad Brown’s stable in late fall.

“He had her and she did well,” Cauthen said. “But he was trying to be patient with her as well.

“Then at one point, I think she got a little sick. She was getting closer to a race down in Gulfstream in early winter. She just got a little sick and he had to back off and start back up.”

With illness and immaturity issues finally behind her, Guarana’s connections chose a 6 ½-furlong Keeneland dirt sprint for her debut in April. She set an early pace over a sloppy track, led by six lengths coming into the stretch, then drew away from nine other rivals to win by nearly 15 lengths.

Cauthen said Guarana’s team entered the race optimistic because of work she’d done training in tandem with some of Brown’s other fillies. But that sort of dominant victory was a pleasant surprise.

“I think there was a lot of confidence that she would run extremely well, possibly win, if there wasn’t some superstar in there,” Cauthen said. “But we never expected her to win by the distance that she did. She just seemed to thrive in the competition of the race.”

That led into Belmont’s Acorn. Guarana squared off with a field of nine that included Kentucky Oaks hero Serengeti Empress.

Under jockey Jose Ortiz, Guarana stalked pace-setting Serengeti Empress through the early stages. She was nearly even with the Oaks winner at the head of the stretch before she exploded by her.

Guarana drew off for a six-length triumph while setting a new stakes record.

“It was a heck of a race,” Cauthen said. “It really was. It was brilliant.”

Cauthen said Brown and Three Chimneys chairman Goncalo Borges Torrealba are looking at targets for Guarana’s next start. He said the $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on July 20 at Saratoga, a 1 1/8-mile showcase for 3-year-old fillies, is a “logical option.”

Four weeks after that, Saratoga hosts the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1) on Aug. 17 for 3-year-old fillies going one furlong further at 1 ¼ miles.

“It’s really all up to Chad at the end of the day, what she’s telling him and how she’s doing and everything else,” Cauthen said. “You’ve got to look at the highest level and those are the highest-level races coming up.”


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