Trainer Jack Sisterson had to survive a stewards’ inquiry before he could truly savour his first career Grade 1 win after Vexatious stunned Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga.
The win, also a first for the trainer at Saratoga, came after 9-1 third-choice in the betting Vexatious gamely repelled last year’s winner and long odds-on favourite Midnight Bisou in the home straight.
Winless since 2018, Vexatious turned for home with an advantage but the favourite loomed large on her outside while Point Of Honor looked to surge up the running rail with her challenge.
Defeated twice last year by Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Blue Prize, Vexatious was second to Monomoy Girl in the Grade 2 Ruffian on her most recent start.
A quick turnaround was something of a concern from that race but Sisterson felt she had shown she was ready to roll the dice one more against top-class opposition.
“We were worried coming back in three weeks [after running second in the Ruffian on July 11th],” he said.
“We put this race in her hands and let her tell us she was ready to come back, and three weeks later she told us that she was ready to run. Physically, she looked great and worked well last week. She’s answered every question.”
The six-year-old daughter of Giant’s Causeway held the lead turning for home after going by early leader Motion Emotion. Jose Lezcano‘s mount drifted across into the path of Midnight Bisou for a stride or two early in the straight but the champion ultimately had every chance to go by in the closing stages; had she been able.
A stewards’ inquiry and jockeys’ objection delayed the moment of joy for winning connections but the trainer said he’d have been proud of Vexatious no matter the outcome.
“It’s always a worrisome time when the inquiry sign comes up, but if it wasn’t mean to be, we would still be proud of our horse’s game effort. She ran terrific,” he added.
“It’s a great win whether at Belterra or Saratoga. It’s our first win at Saratoga, so it’s cool that it’s a Grade 1 with the history behind this race.”
Lezcano suggested Vexatious was finding more ‘every time the other filly came close to her’ in the home straight and was thrilled with the win.
Midnight Bisou‘s co-owner Jeff Bloom paid tribute to her defiant run in defeat, while hinting that he felt maybe the brief interference might have cost her dearly.
“When the other filly [Vexatious] came out and he [Lezcano] was still hitting her left-handed, it looked like it stopped our filly’s momentum enough at that point,” Bloom said.
“Then they came out one more time and it wasn’t massive but, to me, it looked like it was a momentum shift in a crucial point of the race.
“She ran a huge race. She barely lost the race. She’s just a remarkable race mare,” Bloom continued.
“I think what happened in the race definitely caused a shift in momentum. Is it disappointing to lose? Of course it is. You want to win all of them. They don’t give Grade 1 races away. You’ve got to go out there and do it. The filly that beat us is a really nice filly. She ran a huge race last out and is on the upswing, and that’s what happens.”