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2023 Spinaway Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Brightwork Back At Saratoga Looking For 4th Straight Win
Brightwork (Gary Johnson/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

2023 Spinaway Stakes Preview & FREE Picks | Brightwork Back At Saratoga Looking For 4th Straight Win

Aaron previews the 2023 Spinaway Stakes (G1) from Saratoga, then gives his top picks & long shots. The John Ortiz-trained Brightwork looks for her 4th straight win & 2nd at The Spa following the Adirondack Stakes (G3).

Can anyone take down the multiple stakes-winning daughter of Outwork? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

WSS Racing’s undefeated Brightwork brings a perfect 3-for-3 record into Sunday’s 132nd running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies going seven furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.

The Spinaway has been won by subsequent Champion 2-Year-Old Fillies Before Dawn [1981], Family Style [1985], Meadow Star [1990], Flanders [1994], Golden Attraction [1995], Countess Diana [1997], Vequist [2020], and Echo Zulu [2021]. In its earlier years, the Spinaway was won by Hall of Famers such as Miss Woodford [1882], Maskette [1908], Top Flight [1931], Cicada [1961], Affectionately [1962], La Prevoyante [1972] and Ruffian [1974].

The Spinaway is slated as Race 9 on Sunday’s 10-race program, which offers a first post of 12:40 p.m. Eastern. 

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Brightwork, by fourth-crop sire Outwork, announced her presence as a major force to be reckoned with in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Adirondack on August 6 at Saratoga. She stalked a swift pace in between horses from third down the backstretch before tipping out wide around the far turn en route to an easy five-length score under Irad Ortiz, Jr., who retains the mount from post 9. The win garnered an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

Brightwork has seen added ground through each of her starts for trainer John Ortiz. After breaking her maiden by three lengths in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden test on April 26 at Keeneland, she captured the six-furlong Debutante on July 2 at Ellis Park.

Since her Adirondack conquest, Brightwork has engaged in interval training which puts emphasis on the post-work gallop out.

“She came out of her last race in great shape,” Ortiz said. “In her last work, we gave her some interval training where we broke off from the half-mile pole nice and steady and then came home from the quarter pole out a half-mile. She went 49 flat and continued to gallop out almost to the three-eighths pole again. She got plenty of distance that day, nice, slow and steady. I gave her a target last week, and she did a half-mile from the pole in 48 and change. That’s just exactly what we needed.

“The thing about her works is that she’s only getting better and better,” Ortiz continued. “Her heart rate is showing that she’s asking for more distance and so we’re going in there as confident as can be.”

A Spinaway win would give Ortiz, who opened his stable in 2016, his first Grade 1 victory as a trainer.

“That’s life goals right there, isn’t it? When you become a trainer, that’s your number one goal,” Ortiz said. “I told Elliott Walden [CEO of WinStar Farm] one day that if I become a trainer, I don’t want to just be a trainer, I want to be a Champion trainer. That’s the whole purpose of doing this – being in the big leagues and making it to the top. It looks like this filly is looking to take us that way and I’m enjoying the ride.”

Bought for $95,000 as a weanling from the 2021 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, Brightwork is out of the unraced Malibu Moon mare Clarendon Fancy, who also produced stakes-placed Quiet Company. 

Four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown will send out highly impressive maiden winner Ways and Means for Klaravich Stables.

The bay daughter of third-crop stallion Practical Joke, who also was campaigned by Brown and Klaravich, displayed talent in her August 6 debut when tracking in fifth before taking the lead in upper stretch.

Jockey Flavien Prat, who retains the mount from post 8, was described as “poised like a statue in the irons” by the Equibase chart as Ways and Means strolled home a 12 3/4-length winner while earning a 90 Beyer for the win.

Ways and Means has registered two breezes over the Oklahoma training track since her phenomenal maiden coup, including a last out half-mile in 49.77 seconds on August 27.

“She’s had two easy works since, and she looks fine. I’m excited to see her run again. We’ve been training easy,” Brown said.

A Kentucky homebred, Ways and Means is out of the Ontario-bred stakes winner Strong Incentive, who also produced Brown-trained and Klaravich-owned graded stakes-winners Highly Motivated and Surge Capacity.

Hall of Famer Bill Mott will saddle CJ Thoroughbreds’ Sugar Hi [post 3, Junior Alvarado], who impressed in her Opening Day debut at the Spa with a six-length win. The daughter of Twirling Candy earned an 80 Beyer from her first-out graduation going 5 1/2 furlongs, where she sat a close second off a pace set by returning rival Lady Moscato before dueling with her foe in upper stretch and kicking clear to victory.

CJ Johnsen of CJ Thoroughbreds said the ultimate goal with Sugar Hi is to go two turns, which is one reason they bypassed the Adirondack.

“With her pedigree, I think the longer the better. I know she won at 5 1/2 [furlongs], but then going 6 1/2 in the Adirondack is a whole different animal,” Johnsen said. “I don’t think there was any real reason to push her to get to [the Adirondack] because it was a three-week turnaround. She came out of her race great and probably could have easily made the race, but we wanted to make sure to develop her properly. The last thing you want to do with a filly like this is throw them into a race when they aren’t 100 percent and they get crushed and get their spirits broken. She’s so mentally smart, that we wanted to make sure we did the right thing for her.”

Bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich, III and John D. Fielding, Sugar Hi is out of the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Laughing Matters, whose second dam Justenuffheart produced 2006 Champion 2-Year-Old Filly and black type producer Dreaming of Anna as well as turf graded stakes winner Justenuffhumor and multiple graded stakes winner Lewis Michael.

Trainer Kenny McPeek will saddle Wonder Ride [post 7, Julien Leparoux] following a winning debut on August 13 at Saratoga. There, the daughter of leading third-crop stallion Gun Runner rated a close third down the backstretch and won by a half-length in an effort which garnered a 72 Beyer.

McPeek mentioned targeting either the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette going a one-turn mile on October 7 at Belmont at the Big A or the previous day’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alcibiades at Keeneland following the Spinaway.

“She was probably only 80-85 percent first time out. She did everything I asked of her and trained like a very good horse,” McPeek said. “Anytime you can run first, second or third in these kind of races with a filly is good. We’ll see how she runs there and then come back in either the Frizette or the Alcibiades.”

McPeek also campaigned her New York-bred dam Wonderment, a daughter of Cosmonaut who won the 2016 Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park as well as three state-bred stakes.

“She’s bigger, stronger and more talented than her mother and her mother was a very good horse,” McPeek said. “This filly seems to have an aura about her. Her mother was a Grade 3 winner, can this filly be a Grade 1 winner? Fingers crossed.”

Gary Contessa, who trained 2018 Spinaway winner Sippican Harbor, will send out Lee Pokoik’s Becky’s Joker [post 5, Javier Castellano], who won her career debut at 21-1 odds in Opening Day’s Grade 3 Schuylerville going six furlongs. There, Becky’s Joker raced from one length off the pace down the backside and pounced to a 3 1/4-length score. The daughter of Practical Joke was a lackluster seventh in the last out Grade 3 Adirondack, where she finished 15 1/4 lengths back off Brightwork.

Hall of Famer and three-time Spinaway winner Steve Asmussen will saddle Douglas Scharbauer’s Closing Act [post 4, Jose Lezcano] following a third-place finish in the Schuylerville. The Texas homebred Munnings chestnut previously captured the Astoria on June 11 at Belmont Park following a triumphant neck score on debut on May 11 at Churchill Downs.

Completing the field are Miz Sense [post 1, Manny Franco] for Hall of Famer and six-time Spinaway winner Todd Pletcher; Lady Moscato [post 2, John Velazquez] for Hall of Famer and six-time Spinaway winner D. Wayne Lukas; the Tom Amoss-trained Alys Beach [post 6, Dylan Davis]; and Lemorian [post 10, Fernando De La Cruz] for conditioner Michelle Elliott.