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Spelling Again Gets it Right in G2 Princess Rooney

Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Seajay Stable LLC’s Spelling Again withstood race-long pressure to eke out victory by a neck in Saturday’s $250,000 Princess Rooney, a Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In’ event on the $1.125 million Summit of Speed program.

As a reward for her gutsy performance, the Brad Cox-trained 5-year-old mare earned an entry-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5 with her triumph in the seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

Ridden by Luis Saez, the Churchill Downs shipper ran seven furlongs in 1:22.09 under jockey Luis Saez after holding off a furious late bid by Marty Wolfson-trained Cali Star.

“We obviously wouldn’t have flown her down there if we didn’t expect her to run well,” said Cox, who watched the daughter of Awesome Again’s triumph from his office at Churchill Downs. “She’s a tough horse who overcomes things. She overcame some things, the tough trip and shipping, and she rewarded us today with a big effort.”

In her quest to collect her second career Grade 2 victory since being claimed for $40,000 at Santa Anita in May 2015, the 3-1 second choice broke alertly to press the pace set by My Miss Venezuela along the backstretch before taking the lead on the far turn, only to be quickly joined by the Wolfson-trained Kiss to Remember on the turn into the homestretch. After straightening for the stretch run, Spelling Again responded to Saez’s urging to open up a lead approaching mid-stretch but was faced with Cali Star’s formidable outside drive. The Kentucky-bred mare again responded to her jockey’s urging to hold her late-charging rival off by a neck.

“She broke good and she was right there. She was always very comfortable. I had a little pressure early, but I knew I had enough horse. When she came to the stretch she kept running,” Saez said. “I got nervous – that other horse was flying – but I knew I just had to ride harder. And we got it.”

Cali Star, the 4-1 third-betting choice ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, finished second, 2 ½ lengths ahead of Birdatthewire, the Grade 1 stakes winner who went to post as the even-money favorite.

Spelling Again had to work a lot harder Saturday than he did when she coasted to a 4 ½-length win in the Chilukki (G2) at Churchill Downs last November.

“It was a fantastic race. It was a great effort,” Cox said. “She probably had to move a little prematurely with that horse coming up on the outside of her on the turn. But Luis recognized it and stayed after her, put that one away and held off Marty’s (other) horse.”

Cox said Spelling Again will dictate when she will race again and if she will be shipped to Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup.

“I’m a one-race-at-a-time kind of guy. I was thinking the Groupie Doll at Ellis [Grade 3, Aug. 6], but I’ll let her totally dictate where she’ll run next time,” Cox said. “She’s in good form and doing great; she obviously earned a slot (in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita Nov. 5), but it will be totally up to her how she’s doing if we go that far with her.”

$250,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (G2) Quotes 

Trainer Brad Cox (Spelling Again; by phone): “It was a fantastic race. It was a great effort. She probably had to move a little prematurely with that horse (Kiss to Remember) coming up on the outside of her on the turn. But (Jockey) Luis (Saez) recognized it and stayed after her, put that one away and held off Marty’s horse [Marty Wolfson-trained Cali Star].

“We obviously wouldn’t have flown her down there if we didn’t expect her to run well. She’s a tough horse who overcomes things. She overcame some things, the tough trip and shipping, and she rewarded us today with a big effort.

“I’m a one-race-at-a-time kind of guy. I was thinking the Groupie Doll at Ellis [Grade 3, Aug. 6], but I’ll let her totally dictate where she’ll run next time.

“She’s in good for and doing great, she obviously earned a slot (in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita Nov. 5), but it will be totally up to her how she’s doing if we go that far with her.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Spelling Again): “It was a good set-up. She had a great trip. She broke good and she was right there. She was always very comfortable. I had a little pressure early, but I knew I had enough horse. When she came to the stretch she kept running. I got nervous—that other horse was flying—but I knew I just had to ride harder. And we got it.”

Gulfstream Park

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