Tillie’s Lily got sick with a temperature a few days before and was scratched from the $200,000 Caress Stakes here last month. Her timing couldn’t have been better.
The Caress, for female turf sprinters, was run over an extremely soft turf course and was won by longshot Ruby Notion with the favorites nowhere to be found.
“The rain and ultra-soft turf made that decision [to scratch] a little more palatable, because we might have scratched anyway,” said Tillie’s Lily trainer, Jonathan Thomas.
Tillie’s Lily is now healthy and ready to put her undefeated record on the line in Sunday’s $100,000 Smart N Fancy Stakes, the second black-type opportunity for female turf sprinters at Saratoga.
The 5 1/2-furlong Smart N Fancy is by far no easy spot. It drew a field of 13 turf runners, but will be limited to 12. Several have the same front-running style as Tillie’s Lily.
Still, Thomas is extremely pleased with how Tillie’s Lily has bounced back from her illness with a trio of steady, albeit unspectacular on the clock, workouts.
“They haven’t been ultra-fast, but they’ve been done the right way,” Thomas said. “She’s finished up and galloped out well.”
Thomas is hoping for firm ground Sunday, and the forecast certainly bodes well for that.
“The firmer for her the better,” Thomas said.
Six of the nine females who ran in the Caress are back in the Smart N Fancy. Morticia, who won the Coronation Cup here last year, finished fourth in the Caress. Trainer Rusty Arnold absolutely believes his filly didn’t handle the soft turf.
“She was never up near the pace, couldn’t get near the pace. I credit her for coming back and running fourth because I thought she was going to pull up on the turn,” Arnold said. “She came out of it healthy, it didn’t seem to knock her out, and she’s had a great month here.”
Fire Key finished eighth in the Caress, then came back and ran sixth in an off-the-turf allowance race Aug. 12. She did go 2 for 2 over this turf course last summer. John Velazquez, who has ridden only twice over the last five years for trainer Pat Kelly, has the mount.
The field is extremely deep with Chanteline, Just Talkin, and Girls Know Best also seeking to bounce back from the Caress.
Tillie’s Lily, by Distorted Humor
Last 3 Beyers: 90-89-88
◗ Filly came off a 7 1/2-month layoff June 1 to win an allowance at Belmont by two lengths, her third win in as many starts on turf.
“Every race she’s won easily,” Thomas said.
Morticia, by Twirling Candy
Last 3 Beyers: 67-93-94
◗ Finished in the money in 12 of 13 turf starts before running fourth in the Caress over a soft course she didn’t like.
◗ Drawn in midpack, which should give Jose Lezcano options.
Epping Forest, by Exchange Rate
Last 3 Beyers: 95-89-81
◗ Second to Morticia in the Coronation Cup last year, she enters the race with two allowance wins from off the pace at Belmont.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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