07/24/2017 6:20PM

Miss Ella goes last to first in Caress Stakes

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Debra A. Roma
Miss Ella paid $7.80 in winning the Caress Stakes at Saratoga on Monday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Turf or dirt, it obviously doesn’t matter to Miss Ella, who stormed from off the pace to a one-length victory over Fair Point for her second straight Caress Stakes win Monday, capping off the opening week of the 2017 Saratoga racing season.

Miss Ella led throughout to win the 2016 Caress, which was switched from the grass to a sloppy main track, and a similar scenario seemed likely after heavy rain fell over the local area throughout the morning. But NYRA management opted to keep the $200,000 Caress on the grass while moving the three other scheduled turf races on the card to the dirt.  

Graham Motion, who trains Miss Ella for owner-breeder Jack Swain III, said he was “ambivalent” about whether the Caress stayed on the turf or not, although he saluted track management for running the race, as carded, on the grass.

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“Obviously she handles both surfaces well, although I do feel she’s a bit better on the turf,” Motion said. “And I give NYRA credit for keeping the race, which has turned into a pretty important event, on grass. I think we’re too quick sometimes to take some of these races off the turf these days.”

Motion also admitted to having some anxious moments after Miss Ella got shuffled back to last during the early stages of the 5 1/2-furlong Caress. Jockey Joel Rosario tipped Miss Ella outside looking for clearance leaving the turn, Miss Ella showing a good turn of foot once settling into the stretch, splitting the leaders inside the sixteenth pole to win going clear.

Fair Point rallied outside rivals in upper stretch, finished willingly but proved no match for the winner while a half-length better than the 42-1 Carolina Shag to be second.

Miss Ella, a 5-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate, completed the distance in 1:02.30 over a “good” course and paid $7.80 as the tepid favorite in a scratch-reduced field of nine older fillies and mares.

“I was very nervous when seeing her checking after the first quarter mile,” said Motion, by phone, from Maryland after the race. “But Joel is so patient, and things opened up when they needed to. He gave her a beautiful ride.”

Motion said he had no plans for Miss Ella’s next start, although he said “it didn’t appear she had a very hard race” and that there was “another one of these” at the end of the meet, referring to the $100,000 Smart N Fancy at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf Aug. 27.