Spinaway Stakes Preview: Pletcher has One-Two Punch

(Photo: Michael Spector)
Michael Spector

The $350,000 Spinaway, long one of the nation’s most prestigious events for 2-year-old fillies, attracted a field of seven precocious runners for its 125th running at Saratoga Race Course this Saturday.

The Grade 1 Spinaway is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Pace Scenario – Fast

Speed: #3 Runaway Doll, #5 Cherry Lodge, #7 You Know Too

Stalkers: NONE

Closers: #1 Sweet Loretta, #2 Special Risk, #4 Fun, #6 Pretty City Dancer

Odd set up here as there are three speed horses and four closers.  No horses out of this group look like stalkers, although I bet one or two will end up doing so depending on how things fall in place.  This race should have a fast pace up front as Cherry Lodge and Runaway Doll certainly showed plenty of speed in their debut races.  It could set up nicely for a closer like Sweet Loretta or Pretty City Dancer, but Cherry Lodge could also be the “speed of the speed.”


Top Pick: #5 Cherry Lodge

For my money Cherry Lodge was one of the most impressive maiden special weight winners of the meet…male or female.  She went to the front and set blazing fractions and still was able to win by a length.  She needs to relax a little bit today, but her speed and talent just looks to be better than the rest of these in this field.  Notice that John Velazquez rode both Sweet Loretta and Cherry Lodge last time out, and chose to ride Cherry Lodge in this race.  That was the thing that separated the two for me.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers: #1 Sweet Loretta and #3 Runaway Doll

You have to love Sweet Loretta who was a classy looking winner of the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes last time out.  She did get a nice pace to run into in that race, but she might get that yet again today.  Besides that, she also lives up to her name as she was is one of the nicest horses I have ever met.  Runaway Doll was an insanely impressive wire to wire winner on debut here, but that was over a sloppy track so she will have some proving to do today.  In that race she was out by herself which shouldn’t be the case today.

Exotic Plays: #6 Pretty City Dancer

She’s shown a really strong closing kick at Churchill Downs in two races leading up to her appearance here, and will most likely get pace to run into in this spot.  I question if she’s faced horses as good as what she’s up against here today, but class is sometimes a hard thing to judge with two year olds.  Definitely has a shot to hit the board, and if everything goes right she can win the thing as well.

Party Crashers: NONE

If one of the horses I have listed on top don’t win this race I’ll be very surprised.  I can’t give out a longshot horse to play here as it seems to be fairly unlikely

Throw Outs: #2 Special Risk, #4 Fun, #7 You Know Two

Nothing against these three filly’s, but for me I just like the top four I have listed too much to think the others have much of a chance.  I still think a couple of these could turn out to be nice horses down the road though.


Two members of the field – both daughters of leading sire Tapit – are already stakes winners: St. Elias Stable’s Sweet Loretta, who overcame a slow start to capture the Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day; and John C. Oxley’s Pretty City Dancer, who put in an impressive middle move en route to victory in the Debutante at Churchill Downs.

So far, the New York circuit’s open stakes for 2-year-old fillies have all gone to St. Elias and trainer Todd Pletcher, who previously teamed up with Astoria winner Bode’s Dream and Adirondack winner Nonna Mela.

“Vinnie and Teresa [Viola, owners of St. Elias] sent them to us early at Palm Beach Downs and it’s worked out well,” said Pletcher, a five-time Spinaway winner who entered Gainesway Stable’s Cherry Lodge as well. “They all got started there.”

Sweet Loretta looks to stay unbeaten after following a lengthy debut win with a last-to-first triumph in the Schuylerville.

“I thought she ran very well – showed some professionalism coming from off the pace a bit,” said Pletcher. “This particular race looks like it has quite a lot of speed in it, so the race complexion could set up well for her.”

Sweet Loretta breaks from the rail and gets a switch to Javier Castellano, as Hall of Famer John Velazquez stays aboard Cherry Lodge, who begins from post 5.

Cherry Lodge earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89 for her debut win here August 7 over Amapola, who in May had broken Gulfstream Park’s 4 ½-furlong track record but was subsequently disqualified. That is the top figure of the season by a 2-year-old filly in 2016.

“That’s what I’d heard,” said Pletcher. “I was a little concerned when we were in that race and there was a filly that had already broken her maiden by 10 lengths and been disqualified, but she ran to expectations. We’re pleased with the way she came out of the race and the way she’s trained since.”

Pretty Dancer has had some misadventures at the gate through three starts for Mark Casse, but the $825,000 yearling purchase recovered well enough to win her last two decisively under Julien Leparoux, including the Debutante by better than three lengths.

“She’s super talented,” said assistant trainer Norm Casse. “I think that she may take a little longer to become a true professional, but the sky is the limit for her. She has the ability to be a really good racehorse. We just need to get her that racing experience to become really good.”

Pretty Dancer drew post 6, and picks up Irad Ortiz, Jr.

On the strength of a runaway debut win early at the meet, Runaway Doll is likely to attract strong support for Steve Asmussen, whose two prior Spinaway winners include Hot Dixie Chick (2009), who holds the stakes mark of 1:22.28 for seven furlongs.

Runway Doll, who splashed away by 13 ½ lengths in the Spa slop July 31, gets a switch to Jose Ortiz and leaves from post 3.

Rudy Rodriguez and an ownership group headed by Michael Dubb sent out “splashtastic” Condo Commando to win the 2014 Spinaway in Tom Durkin’s farewell race-call. They are back with the maiden Special Risk, a fast-closing second opening day.

Special Risk drew post 2 with Joel Rosario to ride.

Fun was a rallying second while wide in the six-furlong Schuylerville. The Ian Wilkes-trained filly figures to appreciate the added ground, and she will break from post 4 with Junior Alvarado.

Completing the lineup is You Know Too, an invader from Delaware Park who went wire to wire against maidens first out, and led to deep stretch when second in the White Clay Creek Stakes for trainer Michael Gorham. The daughter of 2008 Travers winner Colonel John has Luis Saez up from the outside.


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