At the end of the 11th running of the US$150,000 Coronation Cup at Saratoga Race Course, trainer Jonathan Thomas was confident his speedy Empress Tigress would hold on to win the 5 1/2-furlong race on the Mellon Turf Course.
The win kept Empress Tigress, owned by Augustin Stable, unbeaten in two starts. She broke her maiden at Woodbine Racetrack on a synthetic surface on May 22.
The complexion of the Coronation Cup changed drastically when trainer Wesley Ward scratched 2-1 morning-line favorite Twilight Gleaming, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last November.
Ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Empress Tigress was the third choice in the eight-horse field, going off at 7-2. She took the lead at the quarter-pole and built a 3 1/2-length lead in the stretch and braced for the challenge of Poppy Flower, a daughter of Lea, and jockey Jose Ortiz.
Ortiz had an anxious moment at the start of the race. He said Poppy Flower heard a sound and hit the front of the gate.