by NYRA Press Office
Lady Sheila Stable's Downtown Mama will try to go four in a row in an open field of nine sophomore fillies on tap for the 70th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course.
Purchased as a 2-year-old in training for $440,000, the gray Speightstown filly debuted as a 3-year-old in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Laurel Park on April 23. Over a muddy and sealed track, Downtown Mama stalked the pace before launching a four-wide bid turning for home to run down next-out winner Toby Girl by three-quarters of a length.
She came back in an allowance race at six furlongs on May 27 at Belmont Park, where, under pressure early, she led every step of the way to draw off by three lengths under the wire with Jose Ortiz aboard. Most recently, the Linda Rice trainee broke from the outside post in a field of five and posted a front-running, three-quarter-length victory in a 6 ½-furlong optional claiming contest on July 13 at Belmont.
Following that win, Rice nominated Downtown Mama to the Longines Test on August 5. The seven-furlong Grade 1 race drew a tough field, including a pair of formidable West Coast invaders in American Gal and Faypien, who ultimately finished first and second, respectively, prompting Rice to wait, she said, and target the Prioress.
"We've been kind of sitting on our hands, waiting for the Prioress and hoping that the two fillies from the Test wouldn't come back, so hopefully that'll work out for us," said Rice.
"[The pace] was part of the reason I didn't go to the Test with her," she added. "She's been a little rank in her races and run up close and I was afraid it'd be a recipe for disaster in the Test. I think we've given her a little more time going into this race and, here, it's possible we might be sitting off the pace, we could be on the lead, I'm just going to leave that to Jose Ortiz. He's having a good meet, I'll let him figure it out."
Ortiz will ride Downtown Mama from post 8.
Stonestreet Stable's homebred Dawn the Destroyer will make her stakes debut following a three-length win on opening weekend for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The bay daughter of Speightstown broke her maiden last fall while under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen before being transferred to McLaughlin for her 3-year-old campaign.
In her first start for the barn, Dawn the Destroyer finished a troubled third in a 6 ½-furlong allowance race over a sloppy and sealed track on June 18 at Belmont. She came back on July 24 in a seven-furlong allowance at Saratoga to post an assertive victory over an off track under jockey Joel Rosario.
"She's a very nice filly," said McLaughlin. "We like her and we think that she'll run well. She's trained well and ran well for us both times. There's rain in the forecast and she'll run in the slop here."
Rosario has the return call aboard Dawn the Destroyer, who drew post 6.
Gary Broad's Student Body will try to duplicate her winning effort last time out, where she drew off to post an 11-length victory in gate-to-wire fashion to earn a field-high 94 Beyer Speed Figure on July 14 at Ellis Park.
Trained by Christopher Davis, Student Body will be ridden by James Graham from the rail.
Also on tap for the Prioress are a pair of stakes-placed Asmussen trainees, Golden Mischief and Vertical Oak; Sister Kan, who turned in a 13 ¾-length optional claiming win on August 10 at Indiana Downs; Nonna Mela, winner of the 2016 Grade 2 Adirondack and making her second start of the year for trainer Todd Pletcher; the David Cannizzo-trained New York-bred Royal Inheritance, winner of her last three races, including a half-length allowance win against open company on August 6; and Yorkiepoo Princess, returning to the dirt following a ninth-place finish in the July 31 Coronation Cup on the grass for Eddie Barker.