This is closing weekend at Saratoga, and the featured races for the final two days of the meet are a pair of Grade 1 races for juveniles. Sunday’s feature is the Spinaway, a $350,000 race for two-year-old fillies, going seven furlongs on the dirt. In a separate piece, we will also look at Monday’s Hopeful Stakes (G1), the closing day feature.
The race takes its name from Spinaway: a seven-time winner whose daughter Handspun (Hanover) produced 1905 Belmont Stakes winner Tanya (Meddler), one of just three fillies who has won that race so far. Spinaway’s racing career ended in 1881, and the race run in her honour was inaugurated the same year. Run at distances as short as five and a half furlongs, it has been run consistently at its current seven-furlong distance since 1994.
Tanya won the race named in her granddam’s honour in 1904; she remains the only winner of a Triple Crown race to have won the Spinaway. Just two Spinaway winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Oaks the next year: Ashado (2003) and Cicada (1961). Well befitting its Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In status, three winners of the Spinaway have gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) later that year: Meadow Star (1990), Flanders (1994), and and Countess Diana (1997). All three of those fillies won three-year-old Champion honours. Other Champions and modern-day stakes namesakes also won the Spinaway: La Prevoyante won the 1972 edition, and Ruffian won the race two years later.
Tom Durkin makes his final call as the regular announcer at Saratoga, declaring Condo Commando “Splashtastic” in the 2014 Spinaway Stakes.
Sunday, September 1: Saratoga Race Course
Race 11: Spinaway Stakes (G1), two-year-old fillies, seven furlongs on the dirt, post time 5:50pm EDT
This year’s edition of the Spinaway drew a field of just seven. But, it’s a solid group: all the entrants are already proven with solid efforts in stakes company, or raced well enough in maiden company that it would be no surprise for them to hold their own in stakes company. Despite the short field size, the pace stands to be sharp: MUNDAYE CALL likely has to send from the fence, and RISKY MISCHIEF and FIGURE OF SPEECH are also both unproven from off the pace. It should be enough to ensure a sharp pace, and means that a horse who can come from just a bit off the pace appeals more than one who hasn’t yet proven she can pass horses.
The top pair from the Adirondack (G2), PERFECT ALIBI and FRANK’S ROCKETTE, will be serious contenders running back in the Spinaway. They both come out of an oddly run, troublesome race, and FRANK’S ROCKETTE got the worse of it between the pair. Especially in light of the fact that FRANK’S ROCKETTE will have her throng of backers between the impressive debut for a trainer (Bill Mott) whose horses don’t often win first out, and the fact that she was buried, bumped, and kept going? FRANK’S ROCKETTE is of course a contender. But, PERFECT ALIBI may get a bit ignored in comparison, though she keeps rider Irad Ortiz and she proved in that Adirondack win that she could slice through horses to rally. She’ll also probably come in from slightly behind FRANK’S ROCKETTE — not back in the clouds, but enough to be appealing, unless some heavy speed bias emerges. In the balance? The preference for PERFECT ALIBI over FRANK’S ROCKETTE is slight enough to make them basically a 2/2B.
2/2B, and not 1/1A, because SHIPPY looks well spotted to right the ship. She came into the Schuylerville (G3) on opening day as the buzz horse, a private purchase out of an impressive maiden victory at Laurel. The wagering public has some reasons to be wary, both because Schuylerville winner Comical came back to run so poorly next out in the Sorrento (G2), as well as the uncertainty around yet another barn change. (SHIPPY’s owners are the same as they were in the Schuylerville, but she is in the barn of Kathy Ritvo now, not Doug O’Neill.) But? She has been working regularly since the Schuylerville over a month and a half ago, suggesting she is remaining in condition for her new shedrow. Her debut was strong, and even though she didn’t win the Schuylerville, she passed horses and kept on gamely for third, beaten only three quarters of a length. She proved she could remain engaged when the going got tough, something you always have to wonder a bit when horses win easily first-time out. And, that race came over an off track. The condition of the track is still a bit of a question, left for only Mother Nature to answer, but as of Friday evening the forecast for Sunday means SHIPPY should catch a fast track as opposed to the mud she had to run in last time. There are plenty of reasons she can move forward, and with so much of the attention likely to fall on the Adirondack brigade (and, probably, FIGURE OF SPEECH as well, just because she’s from the Chad Brown barn), SHIPPY should be the right odds to back her upside in a wide-open affair.
#7 SHIPPY (9/2)
#3 PERFECT ALIBI (7/2)
#2 FRANK’S ROCKETTE (8/5)
Longshot: #4 MISS PEPPINA (15/1) likely goes off the longest shot on the board, but the daughter of Bayern isn’t out of place in this. She rallied from well off the pace to win her debut at Belmont — eight lengths back at the second call, something you don’t normally see in an early-season two-year-old race. Though she only ran fourth in the Adirondack (G2), and has tables to turn on several in that race, she showed she could sit closer to the pace than she didi in that debut, and once again MISS PEPPINA passed horses. She will need to take a step forward in this, but adding Lasix and making just her third start? At a price, there’s reason to think she can.
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