Joyce B. Young's homebred Caroline Thomas has been a hard luck horse so far, and her frustrating pattern seemed to continue when her late rally came up just short in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,000 Lake Placid at Saratoga. But the well-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway and Grade 1 heroine Bit of Whimsy was about to see her fortune take a turn for the better. The first-past-the-post Nellie Cashman, a 20-1 longshot, was disqualified and placed third for interfering with the 2-1 Watsdachances, and the 11-1 Caroline Thomas was handed her first stakes victory.
The disqualification came one day after The Apache was demoted for a similar infraction in the Arlington Million, where he bumped and floated Real Solution out during their duel. Nellie Cashman didn't make contact with the rallying Watsdachances, but she did drift a couple of paths out, carrying that rival wide. Caroline Thomas was closing well wider out, and in turn appeared to be affected somewhat by the chain reaction initiated by Nellie Cashman.
The first mile of the 1 ⅛-mile Lake Placid, however, went very much according to plan. Even-money favorite Tapicat set up shop on the front end and carved out comfortable splits of :23 ⅗, :48 and 1:12 ⅕ on the firm inner turf. Silsita sat second, and Nellie Cashman, who had just sprung a 19-1 upset in the Virginia Oaks, tracked in third. Caroline Thomas was allowed to lope along at or near the rear of the field early by Rosie Napravnik.
At the top of the stretch, Tapicat established daylight on her pursuers and enjoyed a 1 ½-length cushion while passing the mile in 1:35 ⅕. The complexion of the Lake Placid changed inside the final eighth, as the favorite began to shorten stride.
Nellie Cashman was first on the premises from her stalking position, and the Maryland-based filly drove past the tiring Tapicat. Watsdachances had a clear path for much of the stretch, but when she finally started to make headway, she found Nellie Cashman floating her out. Despite right-handed whipping by Forest Boyce, Nellie Cashman would not straighten course.
Caroline Thomas was likewise gaining momentum in deep stretch, along with fellow deep closer Concise, and the trio were drawing ever nearer the wayward Nellie Cashman. Caroline Thomas' late thrust nearly got her there, but Nellie Cashman's nose reached the wire first in a final time of 1:47 ⅕. Watsdachances was another neck away as the meat-in-the-sandwich third, and Concise was a further half-length astern in fourth. The top four were separated by less than a length.
The stewards called an inquiry into the stretch run, and Watsdachances' rider, Javier Castellano, lodged an objection against Boyce on the unofficial winner. After reviewing the replay, the stewards decided to alter the original order of finish.
Caroline Thomas sparked payouts of $25.20, $7 and $5.20. Watsdachances was elevated to second, one spot ahead of the demoted Nellie Cashman. Concise remained in fourth. Tapicat, Silsita and Broken Spell concluded the order of finish. The main-track-onlies Skyfall and Flash Forward stayed in the barn.
"Even though we were lucky to be put up for the win," Napravnik said, "I thought my filly really ran a winning race, anyway. She worked so excellent over the grass the other day. I had a lot of confidence in her and she ran excellent.
"I wasn't impacted by the drifting out, but Javier [Castellano] got squeezed, so I was wondering whether he claimed foul on just one of them or both of us. I was confident that I had kept my path straight, but I figured he may have taken a shot, and I don't think we would have come down, anyway. I can say I am glad I didn't have to claim foul on Forest [Boyce]; she is a good friend of mine and her filly ran great, but you know my filly ran a winning race as well."
Castellano commented on his trip.
"When Caroline Thomas made that move, my horse [Watsdachances] took off again," Castellano said. "I had to stop my momentum because the other horse inside, she drifted. I don't blame [Boyce aboard Nellie Cashman], she did the best she could. But, she hit her right-handed and she never corrected the horse to go by. It cost me the place. I could have won by a neck, who knows? Unfortunately, it went a different way today."
Watsdachances is trained by Chad Brown, whose Real Solution was awarded the Arlington Million via the disqualification of The Apache.
"There was some crowding near the wire," Brown said. "I need to look at it a little closer. Javier felt it at least cost him one placing, as he told me, and unfortunately the way the rules are, if you cost [another horse] a placing, you have to come down. I've been involved in some inquiries this week, they can go either way, and that's horse racing. I'm sorry for the connections, but in the end we got second money, and we probably deserved second money today."
Beaten favorite Tapicat will cut back in trip, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
"Our test was to see if she'd get nine furlongs, and it looks like we'd better stick with races around a mile," Mott said.
Long well regarded by trainer Barclay Tagg, who also conditioned her dam, Caroline Thomas has compiled a record of 9-3-1-2, $230,734, all on turf. The chestnut broke her maiden at second asking in November at Aqueduct, and promptly cleared her entry-level allowance condition at Gulfstream Park in December.
A fast-finishing third to Premier Steps and Discreet Marq in her stakes debut in the January 27 Sweetest Chant, Caroline Thomas was a hampered fifth next time out in the March 2 Herecomesthebride. She was fifth again in the May 27 Sands Point, which was stolen by eventual Del Mar Oaks star Discreet Marq. Caroline Thomas nearly broke through in the stakes named in her dam's honor, the June 16 Bit of Whimsy, but was beaten all of a neck in third. She found trouble last time out in the July 20 My Princess Jess, checking in seventh, and was due for a bit of luck.
"She ran a splendid race," Tagg said of her effort in the Lake Placid. "Whether we got put up or not, she was only beaten a couple of inches. She ran the race we've been looking for. We had the Grade 1 Garden City [September 14 at Belmont Park] and the Queen Elizabeth II [October 12] that her mother won at Keeneland in mind all along, but our confidence was wavering a little bit with all the problems she had trying to get going in the races.
"We've been a little guarded about her this summer because her races haven't unfolded right," the trainer continued. "The speed would get away from her each time and sometimes she was way, way, way too far back. I talked it over with Rosie (Napravnik) ahead of time and I had her breeze her the other day. I thought she was in tip-top shape.
"I had a lot of confidence in her or I wouldn't have put her in there. I don't think anybody would have minded if I didn't put her in there. Our big plan was the Grade 1s in the fall, and I thought we weren't going to get her to them if we didn't run her somewhere."
The Kentucky-bred is the first registered foal from the Distorted Humor mare Bit of Whimsy, winner of the 2007 Queen Elizabeth II Invitational Challenge Cup, Mrs. Revere and Sands Point (in a dead-heat with Rutherienne). This is the family of fellow Grade 1 turf stars Miss Josh and Royal Mountain Inn, both Tagg trainees themselves.