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Most Valuable Pony (July 27-August 2): Vexatious

by Jeremy Plonk

August 3, 2020

Each Monday, I’ll select my Most Valuable Pony from the previous week’s racing action around the country. Who won the week? It could be a breakout performer, a known stakes commodity or the horse lifting the most loot. Chime in on Twitter @Xpressbet with your thoughts on who should be each week’s MVP.

July 27-August 2, 2020

MVP: Vexatious
Owner: Calumet Farm
Trainer: Jack Sisterson
Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Performance: Vexatious picked a fine time to land her first victory on dirt since breaking her maiden at Del Mar in 2016, upsetting last year’s champion older female Midnight Bisou in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign on August 1. From a first-over, pressing position, Vexatious assumed the lead at the quarter-pole and immediately was joined by Midnight Bisou. The duo slugged it out the length of the stretch and the eventual winner had to survive a claim of foul. Vexatious was 9-1 third choice in the field of five. The victory was a career-topper, trumping her Grade 3 Dowager victory on turf at Keeneland in 2018 (a race she won via disqualification), and snapped a 9-race losing streak dating back to that one.

On Tap: The Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland will be in the cards. Likely stepping stones to that race could include the Sept. 4 Grade 1 La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, or October’s Grade 1 duo of the Beldame at Belmont Park or Spinster at Keeneland. Vexatious finished fifth in last year’s Spinster.

Honorable Mentions: California raider Improbable got a perfect trip, capitalized on a stumble by heavily favored Tom’s d’Etat and scored a solid, 2-length victory in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga on August 1. It was his second straight Grade 1 win following the Gold Cup at Santa Anita, and he turned the tables on Tom’s d’Etat from April’s Oaklawn Mile victory. Echo Town romped late in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens at Saratoga on August 1, drawing off by 3-1/2 lengths, but did not dazzle on the clock. He gives Steve Asmussen another BC Sprint candidate to go with Volatile. Thousand Words went wire-to-wire to win the Shared Belief Stakes on Aug. 1 at Del Mar, defeating Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. and stamping his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. And finally, Bob Baffert’s huge weekend concluded with Fighting Mad scoring a wire-to-wire win Aug. 2 in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch over top west coast distaffers Ce Ce and Ollie’s Candy.