• Mike Puype

Estrechada, Castellano Capture Waya Stakes

The next time a horse from the barn of Mike Puype shows up in the entry box at Saratoga Race Course, treat its mere presence as a massive endorsement. Only twice in his career has California-based Puype put one of his charges on a plane to the Spa—and both times, they have returned with graded stakes success. The latest such achievement came Aug. 5 as Estrechada struck the front in midstretch and held strong in the final strides to take the Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes (G3T) going 1 1/2 miles on the inner turf, for her first graded victory.

Watch Video Puype's only prior Saratoga starter came nearly six years ago to the day when he saddled Turbulent Descent to a victory in the 2011 Test Stakes (G1). Having finished sixth to fellow Waya entrant Apple Betty in the July 9 River Memories Stakes at Belmont Park, Estrechada was dealing with a bit of deja vu early as that rival was again out front, setting fractions of :24.36 and :49.60, with Estrechada rating fourth after having to take up midway through the first turn. Where the 6-year-old daughter of Offlee Wild was never able to find running room in her prior outing, she got the daylight she needed in the lane under handling from newly-inducted Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. With Apple Betty under a drive along the inside trying to hold off graded stakes winner and 4-5 favorite Suffused, Estrechada responded to right-handed urging with a steady surge, hitting the wire a half length in front of the hard-charging Lottie while covering the distance in 2:27.49. "Javier did a great job. She got a great trip," said Ral Ayers, assistant to Puype. "Last time, Flavien (Prat) was in tight, just couldn't get out. And when she gets out she just runs past them, but the race was over."

Lottie put in a good rally of her own to get place honors, finishing a neck in front of Summersault. Apple Betty backed up to fourth, with Suffused, Evidently, and Guilty Twelve completing the order of finish. Estrechada began her career in her native Argentina before making her North American debut against males when she ran ninth in the Marathon Stakes (G2) over the Santa Anita Park main track last November. Owned by Slugo Racing and bred by La Esperanza, Estrechada improved her record to five wins from 20 starts and $227,842 in earnings. Sent off at 9-1 odds, Estrechada paid $20, $9.60, and $5.80 across the board. She is out of the Roy mare Escayola (ARG).