Even-money favorite Contested came from off the pace to regain her winning form with a two-length victory in the 87th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Test for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Contested rebounded from a last-place finish in the Mother Goose Stakes (G1) last time out to win Saturday’s Test Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Looking to make amends following the Mother Goose defeat, Contested, who had raced on the lead in her two most recent starts, was seventh out of the gate and rated in third as Ullapool set fractions of 21.49 and 44.09 seconds, with Gypsy Robin tracking intently in second.
Rafael Bejarano gave Contested her cue at the top of the stretch, and she overhauled the pacesetters with a furlong to travel. Gypsy Robin held second by a half-length over late-running Beautiful But Blue.
“My horse broke a little slow, but I knew [Gypsy Robin] and the other horse [Ullapool] were going to go to the lead,” said Bejarano. “I just tried to figure it out and get my horse in good position. When we came to the stretch the race was done. I had plenty of horse and she showed me a big kick. She didn’t stumble; she just broke a little slow. I didn’t try to rush; I just tried to get in good position. It actually benefited me because the horses on the lead were going very fast.”
Jim Barnes, assistant to winning Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, said he instructed Bejarano to let the start of the race determine where he’d place Contested.
“I said, ‘You got to play the break. If you catch a flyer, you can actually go,’” said Barnes. “‘If you get away slowly, just put her in a comfortable, clean spot,’ and he did.”
Contested, who is owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill (Natalie J.), improved her record to 5-1-0 in seven starts and earned $300,000 to push her bankroll to $633,754. Prior to her fifth-place finish in the Mother Goose on June 23, the daughter of Ghostzapper had won the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont and the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs in May.
–NYRA Press contributed to this report.