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BackTrack: Beautiful Pleasure Upholds Personal Ensign

There was no wiggle room for Beautiful Pleasure in the $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap (G1) Aug. 25. Another loss to Heritage of Gold could have wiped away her chances of repeating as the champion older filly and mare, more than two months before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Under a heady ride by jockey Jorge Chavez, John Oxley’s champ responded to the challenge, leading every step of the 10 furlongs for a five-length tour de force in 2:03.77.

In conjunction with Tom Hall’s Look Back feature in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present historic race stories from the pages of the magazine.

This week is a recap of the Aug. 25, 2000 Personal Ensign (G1) victory by Beautiful Pleasure at Saratoga Race Course. The recap from the Sept. 2, 2000 magazine, written by Mike Kane, carried the headline: “The Pleasure is Hers.”

“At least the crown didn’t fall off yet,” said Donna Ward, the unofficial trainer-exercise rider-psychiatrist, who handles the quirky 5-year-old Maudlin mare for her husband, trainer John T. Ward Jr.

The crown would have slipped if Beautiful Pleasure had failed to win the Personal Ensign for the second year in a row. Heritage of Gold won their first meeting of the year in the Apple Blossom (G1), and had solidified her position at the top of the division by beating Beautiful Pleasure in the Go for Wand (G1) over a sloppy Saratoga Race Course track July 30, the first Sunday of the meet. The Personal Ensign became a must-win race for Beautiful Pleasure.

In the nine-furlong Go for Wand, Chavez allowed Beautiful Pleasure to run out to a seven-length lead through opening fractions of :47.03 and 1:11.09. That helped set up Heritage of Gold’s late run, which carried the Gold Legend mare to a one-length victory. Chavez was more conservative in the Personal Ensign, setting fractions of :24.31, :48.71, and 1:12.42, which served to blunt Heritage of Gold’s kick.

When Heritage of Gold did make her bid, she was unable to get close to Beautiful Pleasure, weakened in deep stretch, and was overtaken at the wire by Back in Shape. However, Heritage of Gold did gain second when Back in Shape was disqualified and placed fourth behind Pentatonic for interference in the stretch.

“They went fairly slow up front and Beautiful Pleasure does what she does best: she controlled the race,” said Heritage of Gold’s trainer Tom Amoss. “From a trainer’s point of view, I’d like to believe that going 1 1/4 miles may have cost me the last little part, and basically my filly’s lack of a run would be related to the fact the pace was so slow.

“But, hey. the winner ran great and I didn’t expect it. I thought we would be in the winner’s circle after the race.”

Donna Ward said the loss in the Go for Wand, following uncontested victories in the Shuvee (G2) and the Hempstead (G1) at Belmont Park, forced Chavez and the mare to pay attention.

“Just having the race over the racetrack, she got back to helping Jorge out by knowing horses were going to close on her,” she said. “Last time, they were just a little too confident.”