To solve the Just a Game, sort out Brown's quintet (2024)

To solve the Just a Game, sort out Brown's quintet (1)

Barbara D. Livingston

Beaute Cachee (right), longshot winner of the Jenny Wiley, works with Chili Flag in preparation for the Just a Game. They will be joined by three other Chad Brown-trained runners in Friday's seven-horse field.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Chad Brown has won six of the last seven runnings of the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes, and with five of the seven fillies and mares in Friday’s renewal, the chances are very good he will add to that enviable record.

Brown entered Beaute Cachee, Gina Romantica, Coppice, Chili Flag, and Whitebeam in the $500,000 Just a Game, which will be decided for the first time at Saratoga. Brown advised that as of Tuesday he planned to start all of them. The formidable quintet will square off at a mile over the inner turf against multiple graded stakes winners Mission of Joy, from the barn of trainer Graham Motion, and Evvie Jets, who is conditioned by Mertkan Kantarmaci.

“It’s a very prestigious race, the purse is significant, and I just didn’t see any other races right now that make real sense for these horses,” Brown explained, when asked about starting five in the same event. “I thought about the New York, but being at a mile and three-sixteenths, I just didn’t think it was fair to ask any of these horses to go a distance that isn’t best for them.”

Brown said he never sets out to run multiple horses when making entries for any particular stakes, although he’s done so many times in the past.

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“To be clear, I don’t enter five horses to run as a team. I pick out the race to fit each individual horse that’s in their best interest at the time,” Brown said. “When I enter a horse for a race, I do it one entry at a time. When I get done, there might be one horse, there might be five horses. I just don’t think it’s fair to ask a horse to sit out a race that I believe is really custom-made for them.”

Brown then proceeded to run down his imposing lineup for the Just a Game beginning with Beaute Cachee, who led gate to wire to upset the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at odds of 25-1 at Keeneland in her 2024 debut.

“This filly really stepped up last time,” Brown said. “She did get loose on the lead there. She’s a horse we really thought a lot of and she has really improved this year.”

Brown compared Beaute Cachee’s progress to that of Chili Flag, who has come from behind to capture each of her last two starts by a neck – the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park and more recently the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs. Like the Just a Game, both were a mile.

“These two fillies did everything we asked them to do in the offseason,” said Brown. “They got a little faster, a little stronger, and began to show us in the mornings, when we were down in Florida this winter, that they stepped up and deserved a shot in Grade 1 races this year.”

Gina Romantica is coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish, seven lengths behind Beaute Cachee, in the Jenny Wiley, her first start since finishing fourth, beaten just a length, against males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. A Grade 1 winner at both 3 and 4, Gina Romantica won the Riskaverse in her only previous start over the Saratoga turf.

“She may have been a little rusty in her last start,” Brown admitted. “I was surprised she didn’t fire, but she has come out of the race moving forward in her works and looks like she’s ready for a rebound.”

Coppice finished second, a neck behind Chili Flag, making her U.S. debut in the Distaff Turf Mile.

“She impressed us all winter. We couldn’t wait to run this filly,” Brown said. “She ran super. I’m not surprised she ran that well off the bench. I was surprised she got beat the way she had trained.”

Whitebeam, winless in three starts since capturing the Grade 1 Diana here last summer, launched her 2024 campaign by finishing second, beaten a neck, after an extended pace duel, as the 1-2 favorite in the Grade 3 Beaugay last month at Aqueduct.

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“She did not ship well to Aqueduct, she didn’t really give a good appearance in the paddock, and ran pretty well despite it,” Brown said. “If she behaves on race day, with her affinity for the course, it would not surprise me at all if she ended up on top here.”

Mission of Joy and Evvie Jets finished fourth and eighth, respectively, behind Chili Flag and Coppice in the Distaff Turf Mile. Mission of Joy is seeking her first win since capturing the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill a year ago, while Evvie Jets will return to the scene of her finest hour, a hard-fought head decision over Brown’s fast-closing Fluffy Socks in the Grade 2 Ballston Spa here last summer.

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To solve the Just a Game, sort out Brown's quintet (2024)
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