08/17/2013 2:09PM

Saratoga: Clear Pasaj may have to rate in Union Avenue

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Clear Pasaj (center), narrow winner of the Lottsa Talc on July 25, cuts back from seven furlongs to six furlongs for Monday's Union Avenue.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In winning her last two starts, both overnight stakes restricted to New York-breds at seven furlongs, Clear Pasaj was able to secure a comfortable early lead and had enough to hold on at the wire.

When Clear Pasaj seeks her third straight victory in Monday’s $100,000 Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga, Bruce Levine, the trainer of Clear Pasaj, doesn’t think the competition will let his filly get away such with tactics again. But he’s okay with that.

“I think they’ll attack her more,” Levine said. “I think being she’s won the last two she might have the bull’s-eye on her back a little bit more than her last two races. … They just can’t keep letting me go. But I can rate. It’s not that big of a deal.”

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Clear Pasaj will take on familiar rivals Willet and Miss Valentine in the Union Avenue, restricted to New York-bred fillies and mares. Those three were separated by noses when 1-2-3 in the Lottsa Talc here on July 25. That race was run at seven furlongs. The six furlongs of the Union Avenue may be better for Clear Pasaj than Willet of Miss Valentine.

Clear Pasaj has 4 wins and 4 seconds from 9 starts at six furlongs. In her last trip at that distance, Clear Pasaj sat second in the early going and was beaten by Sunny Desert, a filly who has won 8 of her last 9 races.

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Beautiful But Blue chased Clear Pasaj in the Lottsa Talc, and Levine believes she could be the one on the lead in the Union Avenue. Clear Pasaj, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, is in post 4, two stalls outside of Beautiful But Blue.

“I’ll play the break,” Levine said. “If she goes I can sit second. She doesn’t need the lead, but I ain’t going to give the other horse an easy lead.”

Though both Willet (3 for 6) and Miss Valentine (2 for 2) have good records at six furlongs, their trainers believe they are better at longer distances.

James Iselin, the trainer and part-owner, said part of the reason he is running Willet back is because he can get the services of Joel Rosario for a second straight race.

“Three-quarters is a concern, but he knows her, he’s ridden her, she’s had a race on the track,” Iselin said. “If a horse opens up a huge lead, so be it. This is her third race in the cycle and she’s doing well.”

Miss Valentine won the Lottsa Talc Stakes held at Aqueduct last December going six furlongs, but has proven even better in races at seven furlongs or one mile. Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride her on Monday.

“It’s a little short for my filly,” trainer Christophe Clement said. The faster they go the better. I thought she ran a very good race last time. Irad rides her very well. The choice is this or a mile and an eighth. I don’t want to go a mile and an eighth.”