SCHUYLERVILLE STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 6 FURLONGS
History was made on day one of Saratoga's sesquicentennial, with the juvenile fillies Bahnah and Brazen Persuasion serving up the first dead-heat victory in 95 runnings of the Grade 3, $150,000 Schuylerville on Friday. Both were coming off impressive maiden wins at Churchill Downs, propelling Bahnah into 6-5 favoritism and rating Brazen Persuasion as the 2-1 second choice.
Darren and Marilyn Pollitt's Brazen Persuasion, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Rosie Napravnik, survived a fierce pace battle. Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch's Bahnah, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Corey Lanerie, chased early and got up late.
"They were opposite on the nods," Asmussen said. "It was, 'no, yes, no, yes, no, yes.' I did think she [Brazen Persuasion] got beat on the wire watching the replay, and then when they threw the number up, they go 4-5 in order, you think she won. And then they throw the dead heat, so we'll take all of it."
Napravnik didn't think that Brazen Persuasion would get the nod.
"[After the wire] I told Corey [Lanerie], I said, 'You got this. Definitely you got this.' So, I thought it was him," Napravnik said.
For his part, Lanerie didn't think that Bahnah got there.
"I thought I had maybe lost the bob," Lanerie said. "Both horses, neither one of them wanted to lose. At the eighth-pole, I thought I was going to get her, because she was giving up, and at the sixteenth-pole I thought she had me because I was giving up. Just neither one of them wanted to lose."
Brazen Persuasion broke on top, but Yes Liz was right alongside her as she whizzed through an opening quarter in :21 3/5 on the fast track. Bahnah was traveling well in an outside tracking third, while Elena Strikes, Yes Liz's entrymate, was already being ridden to try to keep up on the inside.
When Brazen Persuasion reached the half-mile :44 3/5, Bahnah had taken over the second spot from Yes Liz. Although Yes Liz was beginning to retreat from contention, fellow Stonestreet colorbearer Elena Strikes was finally getting better traction at the top of the lane. Elena Strikes briefly threatened to join Bahnah in challenging Brazen Persuasion, only to yield to the top two.
Brazen Persuasion continued to hold on grimly from Bahnah in midstretch, but Bahnah was not done yet. Launching another bid, Bahnah appeared to grab a slim lead. Then Brazen Persuasion came again in the final yards, and the duelists were trading head-bobs until they hit the wire.
The camera revealed that the equally-resolute pair, the diminutive Bahnah and the strapping Brazen Persuasion, shared the spoils. After covering six furlongs in 1:12, Bahnah paid $2.40 to win, and Brazen Persuasion furnished $2.80.
"[Brazen Persuasion] broke sharp, was away real cleanly," Asmussen recapped. "The entry tackled her immediately. Coming into the stretch, I thought she got a little separation, and then you saw the other filly coming, but they fought really well to the wire."
"She broke well," Napravnik said of Brazen Persuasion. "I didn't really like the fact that I was on the inside of the other speed, so they were kind of forcing us to go. But she broke so well and went along easy; I just tried to wait as long as I could even though I was kind of outrunning Johnny [Velazquez, aboard Yes Liz].
"I'll tell you what, this little thing that I hit the wire with [Bahnah], she's about half the size of any of them. They both ran super hard and our filly is really talented. She ran very well."
Calhoun paid tribute to rival Brazen Persuasion.
"It was a heck of a duel," Calhoun said. "Steve's horse took a lot of pressure up there. Hat's off to that horse. She ran a game race.
"I thought at one point when we stepped up to her, I would get on by. Then right there at the wire, I thought we might have got to her. When I saw the replay over and over, I thought it was a heater.
"[Lanerie] said she [Bahnah] wasn't responding to the whip, and he switched to hand-riding her and she inched back up to them. It was a game effort by both of them. It was a great race by both of them. It's a good way to get a first win [at Saratoga]."
Elena Strikes checked in another 1 1/4 lengths astern in third. Yes Liz tired to fourth, followed by Silver Valley, True Blue Nation and Jonesin for Jerry.
Bahnah is now two-for-two with $87,000 in earnings. The Elusive Quality filly was stretching out from her debut dashing 4 1/2 furlongs at Churchill, where she romped by six lengths on June 6.
"This was obviously a big step for her going from 4 1/2 furlongs to six furlongs, but she stepped up and proved it today," Calhoun said. "She's always been a mentally mature filly, and she continues to progress both mentally and physically. I think the Spinaway [Grade 1 on September 1] is probably now on our radar."
Bred by Aaron and Marie Jones in Kentucky, Bahnah went to her current connections for $62,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The bay was produced by the multiple Grade 3-winning Glitterman mare Flying Glitter, who is also responsible for the multiple stakes-placed Flying Train.
Brazen Persuasion had the benefit of a six-furlong win already under her belt, having captured a June 29 maiden at Churchill by 4 3/4 lengths. The daughter of Indian Charlie was previously runner-up, just run down late, in her premiere beneath the Twin Spires on May 31. Her scorecard stands at 3-2-1-0, $96,000.
Bred by T.F. Van Meter and Brian Kahn in Kentucky, Brazen Persuasion first sold as a yearling for $57,000 at Keeneland September before bringing $210,000 as an OBS March two-year-old. She is out of the winning Cat Thief mare Beholden, making her a half-sister to stakes scorer Behold de Buy. Brazen Persuasion's second dam is Grade 3 victress Godmother, and she comes from the family of Grade 3 heroine Winter Melody.
"She's a good-sized filly," Asmussen said. "(Bloodstock agent) David Ingordo bought her at OBS March, and I can't say enough of what a dream she has been to work with since the day she came into the barn."