SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Travers, naturally, was the biggest story on Saturday – after all, it was Travers Day. As far as showdowns between individual horses were concerned, however, the match-up between Midnight Bisou and Elate in the $700,000 Personal Ensign (G1) was the day’s top attraction.
They did not disappoint. Taking over from longshot leader Coach Rocks (37-1) nearing the quarter-pole, Elate raced clear in upper stretch, passing the eighth pole a length or two in front. But Midnight Bisou, who had been last for much of the early going, was rolling on the outside, looking like she might blow right by her rival. Elate, however, stiffened once Midnight Bisou came into view, and the two ding-donged the rest of the way, with Midnight Bisou getting up in the last jump. The official margin was a nose. The winning time was a sharp 1:47.92 for 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track.
“The mare ran a great race,” said winning rider Mike Smith. “It was a fight to get by Elate, who is a champion in her own right. I thought I got there at the wire, but there have been times before when I thought I did, and didn’t.
“I’ve ridden a lot of great mares, and [Midnight Bisou] is catching up by leaps and bounds,” Smith continued. “She’s just getting so good.”
“I thought she got the head bob, but we were running against a big filly,” said winning co-owner Jeff Bloom. “Mike told us a long time ago that our filly knows how to win, and she proved that today. What a battle.”
It was another heartbreaking defeat for Elate, who has now lost three Grade 1s at Saratoga by a neck or less. She’s a Julie finished third, nearly nine lengths aft of Elate. Wow Cat and Coach Rocks followed. Golden Award was pulled up on the far turn and walked off.
“I don’t see any big excuse right now,” said Bill Mott, Elate’s trainer. “It was a good race. One jump before the wire we were a head in front. Maybe we’ll have to keep her in training another year, and try again. Both top two fillies ran great.”
Elate’s record now stands at 7-6-2 from 17 starts, with earnings of $2,228,775. The 5-year-old Medaglia d’Oro mare has won five graded races, including a pair of Grade 1s, the Beldame and Alabama, as a 3-year-old.
The Personal Ensign is Midnight Bisou’s 10th graded win and fourth Grade 1. The winner’s share of $375,000 pushes the 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute’s earnings over the $3 million mark to $3,245,000.