Three-Year-Olds: Drake’s Passage wins Albany; Ichiban takes Fleet Indian

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

Drake’s Passage rolls to victory in the Albany in his stakes debut for owner-breeder Robert Evans. NYRA Photo.

Christophe Clement and Robert Evans employ a simple strategy to their trainer-owner relationship.

“He doesn’t tell me how to train and I don’t tell him how to breed,” Clement said after the final stakes on Sunday’s New York Showcase Day program at Saratoga Race Course. “It works great that way.”

The protocol worked great with Tonalist – trained by Clement for Evans to victory in the 2014 Belmont Stakes – and with a couple runners who won stakes Sunday. Drake’s Passage capped the day for the team with a dominating victory over six fellow sophomore New York-breds in the $250,000 Albany Stakes.

Drake’s Passage won the 9-furlong Albany by 7 3/4 lengths in his stakes debut under Manny Franco, who won four races on the card. Clement also celebrated three Showcase Day stakes wins, adding the Albany to City Man’s score in the West Point and New Ginya’s victory in the Yaddo Handicap. The latter, like Drake’s Passage, was bred by Evans.

“The horse has always trained like a nice horse,” Clement said of the Albany winner. “He won last year … and came back after some time off. He came back, he won at Belmont and was very impressive this afternoon.”

Clement and his son and assistant Miguel always liked Drake’s Passage, a homebred out of Evans’ Grade 3-placed Speightstown mare Raucous. He trained with the stable’s summertime string at Belmont Park during last year’s Saratoga meet before shipping north to finish his training on the Oklahoma Training Track.

Drake’s Passage breezed three times on the dirt on the Oklahoma before a half-mile work on the grass 13 days before his debut, also on grass going 1 1/16 miles during the Belmont at the Big A meet, which actually wasn’t totally by design.

The Clements joked about that run, a fifth by 6 lengths on good turf, after the Albany.

“We won’t talk about it,” Miguel Clement said. “That was my mistake. I knew he wanted to go long, but we had 6 furlongs on dirt that day or a mile and a sixteenth on grass . . . I got in a lot of trouble. That was my mistake.”

Drake’s Passage made amends from there, finishing third going 7 furlongs a month later during the main Aqueduct fall meet before winning on a muddy track going 1 mile Dec. 8.

“We worked him with everything in the barn and he always outworked everything in the barn,” Christophe Clement said. “He’s a nice horse.”

Off until July 3, Drake’s Passage returned with another victory going 1 mile at Belmont Park before stepping into stakes company and going two turns for the first time in the Albany.

Gamblers bet Drake’s Passage down to 6-5 in a field that included the 1-2 finishers from the New York Derby in Allure of Money and Maker’s Candy and Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Saratoga allowance winner Mariachi. Drake’s Passage bobbled a bit at the break before settling into a tracking position in second behind Mariachi through splits of :24.11, :48.44 and 1:12.55.

Mariachi held the lead into the lane but came under serious pressure from Drake’s Passage outside the sixteenth pole. Drake’s Passage took over from there and opened 3 1/2 lengths past the eighth pole. He widened the advantage from there as 15-1 longshot Jackson Heights closed from last to finish second, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Miracle Mike with Maker’s Candy fourth. Mariachi, Allure of Money and Leo and Royal completed the lineup. Drake’s Passage won in 1:50.95 over the fast track.

“I just wanted to wait as long as I could because I know I had a lot of horse,” Franco said. “I know I’ve got the horse in the lead, so I take a peek back to see what the company was, and it was a matter of time . . . He definitely wants to go longer. Clement told me that the race before . . . that he wants to go longer and he was right.”

Drake’s Passage improved to 3-for-5, earned $137,500 and boosted his earnings to $231,480. He’s the first foal out of Raucous, a $300,000 purchase by Evans at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale who won two of seven starts including the Chelsey Flower Stakes at Aqueduct and placed in the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar.

Raucous’ second foal, a Gun Runner colt named Unique Insight in training at Saratoga, sold for $360,000 to Klaravich Stables at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale. She’s also the dam of a yearling colt by Tonalist named Radauti and a weanling filly by Gun Runner born April 9.

Tom Law

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Ichiban scores in Sunday’s Fleet Indian,  her third win of the 2023 Saratoga Race Course meet. NYRA Photo

Ichiban finds third win of meet in Fleet Indian

Coming into the 34th day of Saratoga Race Course’s 2023 meet, Linda Rice was three wins behind leader Chad Brown in the trainer standings with 27. But with all that success, she had yet to notch a stakes win.

That void ended in Sunday’s second race when 3-year-old filly Ichiban won the 1 1/8-mile Fleet Indian Stakes by 5 ½ lengths on the main track. The race was the first of six stakes in Sunday’s New York Showcase Day for state-breds.

Rice ran two fillies in the four-horse field, and had secured the services of both of the Ortiz brothers, one and two in the jockey standings. Jose rode the winner while Irad finished second on Amanda’s Folly for a Rice/Ortiz exacta.

For Ichiban, a daughter of Street Sense and the Out Of Place mare Cover Girl Elle, it was not only her first stakes win, it also completed a Saratoga hat trick with her third victory of the meet.

“She didn’t surprise me,” said Rice, of the 2023 meet’s first three-time winner. “She’s been training so forwardly and I think she’s still improving.”

Discussing race strategy, Jose said, “We knew [Timely Conquest] had the speed but was stretching out so we wanted to push her a little. Either one of us could have done it, but I broke better this time so I was the one applying the pressure. But I still wanted to give myself a shot to win. When I came up to the leader, I kind of felt she was done and I knew I still had plenty of horse so I decided to go on and my filly responded very well.”

Ken Gill, a partner with his wife Karen in the filly through Cypress Creek Equine and breeder Mike Moreno’s Southern Equine Stable, loved it.

“Powerful,” Gill said. “We expected it. We bought into this filly with Mike in July and she’s done nothing but win since.”

Ichiban lost her first four starts – in January at the Fair Grounds with Ricky Courville and three in New York with Rice – but has turned it around since. Second at Belmont June 25, she started the Saratoga triple with a 7 furlong maiden race July 15 and a 1 1/8-mile allowance July 26.

“We’ve got a good many horses in the New York program,” said Karen Gill. “It’s wonderful, you have the breeders’ program and you have all these races for New York horses.”

Ichiban’s share of the $200,000 Fleet Indian purse pushed her career earnings to $228,750 with a record of three wins in seven starts.

“As I said, she’s improved so much I don’t know right now where she goes next,” said Rice, an eight-time New York Thoroughbred Breeders trainer of the year. “Maybe she could graduate into the Empire Distaff [Oct. 29 at Aqueduct]. We’ll see.”

A perfect 3-for-3 on Ichiban, Jose Ortiz also picked up his third Fleet Indian victory (following Final’s Cave in 2022 and Sunset Ridge in 2017).

In addition to the Fleet Indian victor, Cover Girl Elle has produced five winners including stakes winner (and graded-stakes-placed) Ava’s Grace.

– Terry Hill

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