SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – A memorable summer at Saratoga Race Course produced another historic moment when the photo-finish camera could not separate the two Tapit fillies in Saturday’s Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway.
Sweet Loretta and Pretty City Dancer reached the wire simultaneously, and after a Steward’s inquiry the result of the 125th running was declared official. According to available records, it is the first dead-heat to win in Spinaway history.
Sweet Loretta captured the Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day, and was able to get back to a very crowded winner’s circle to give trainer Todd Pletcher his sixth Spinaway victory. As in the Schuylerville, she was slowest from the gate but recovered with Javier Castellano to secure position just off a pace battle among Runway Doll, favored Cherry Lodge and You Know Too.
Pretty City Dancer was off a half-step slow as well under Irad Ortiz Jr., and settled well off the early leaders while wide, before taking closer order around the turn.
Sweet Loretta caught the leaders on the outside and moved clear while drifting out near the furlong grounds, with Pretty City Dancer rallying wider still and then beginning to drift inward as Ortiz switched to right-handed pressure.
Their worlds collided in a bumping exchange right before the wire, and a head-bob finish showed they reached the finish on even terms. It was nearly six lengths back to the Pletcher-trained Cherry Lodge in third, with the order of finish completed by Fun, You Know Too, Runway Doll and Special Risk.
As a “Win and You’re In” qualifier, the Spinaway winners receive an automatic berth and a fees-paid trip to Santa Anita Park in November for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
“The last part of the race I knew she was going to get tired a little bit,” said Castellano. “I hit her left-handed and she drifted just a little bit, and the other filly came over and brushed up a little bit right on the wire.”
Said Ortiz: “Late in the stretch I felt a little bump, but we still won the race so there’s nothing wrong with that. Her style is to come running at the end.”
Sweet Loretta, the 7-2 second choice, paid $4.90 to win. She ran her record to 3-for-3 and earned $140,000 for St. Elias Stable.
“It was a big effort from both fillies,” said Pletcher. “Today the two most seasoned horses were one-two.”
Also earning $140,000 for John C. Oxley was Pretty City Dancer, who was coming off a win in the Debutante at Churchill Downs. The gray daughter of Tapit paid $5.60 to win.
“I thought she was going to get there and then she kind of laid in,” said trainer Mark Casse. “I never really say the head-on [replay], but then I thought we won and then I thought we got beat. Then I met up with Todd and he said, ‘Will you take a dead-heat?’ and I said, ‘I’ll take a dead heat.’ So that’s what we got.”