The East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast will all be well represented in Saturday’s $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, so there’s no guarantee that the East Coast’s first major prize for two-year-old fillies will be won by a local runner.
Twelve promising juveniles have turned out to contest this seven-furlong “Win and You’re In” prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), with #4 Catherinethegreat looming as the best of the local contingent. Trained by Mark Casse, the daughter of Uncaptured broke her maiden at Gulfstream Park before shipping north to Saratoga, where she cruised to an impressive gate-to-wire victory in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) on opening day of the meet. The way Catherinethegreat sprinted through fractions of :21.78 and :44.64 before pulling away to win by 4 ¼ lengths was eye-catching, and a repeat of that effort would make her the filly to catch in the Spinaway.
But to prevail, she’ll have to hold off #7 Chasing Yesterday, who ships in from California for trainer Bob Baffert. Amazingly, Baffert has won with seven of his last 14 starters at Saratoga, a streak that includes Grade 1 victories with Arrogate, Drefong, West Coast, and—just last weekend—Abel Tasman and Marley’s Freedom. Jockey Mike Smith, who rode all five of those stars, will also guide Chasing Yesterday, who had no difficulty breaking her maiden by 4 ¼ lengths on July 28th at Del Mar. The half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah earned strong speed figures that were validated when the distant runner-up, Honeyfromthesouth, came back to finish second by a nose in a similar maiden race at Del Mar last week.
You might think the Spinaway is a two-horse race, but don’t forget about #11 Restless Rider, who might well be the most promising runner of all. Trained by Kenny McPeek, who has gone 5-for-20 (25%) at the current Saratoga meet, this daughter of Distorted Humor was nothing less than sensational while winning the six-furlong Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 30th. Words can’t adequately describe her performance—after tracking the pace early on, Restless Rider had to check hard when a rival broke down in front of her, which cost Restless Rider about a half-dozen lengths and a lot of momentum. It should have been enough to eliminate any chance of victory, but instead, Restless Rider effortlessly re-accelerated, gained back all the lost ground around the turn, seized command at the top of the stretch, and powered clear to win by 11 ¼ lengths.
Simply put, Restless Rider’s performance was freakish. Catherinethegreat and Chasing Yesterday have run faster on the speed figure scales, but they didn’t have to overcome extraordinary adversity. That’s why I’m going to make Restless Rider my key horse in the exacta and trifecta—she might just be something special.