The $300,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1) for 2-year-old fillies has been contested at Saratoga since 1881. It is one of the few races that has lengthened in distance, from the original 5 1/2 furlongs to the current seven furlongs.
As you can imagine, the roll call of winners is a who’s who of racing. However, in the last 10 years, there has been only one filly, last year’s winner Vequist, who has won both the Spinaway and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
The 2014 Spinaway heroine Rachel's Valentina placed in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
This year’s Spinaway, carded as race 11, and only stakes on Sunday, attracted nine youngsters, most of whom are making their second start. Let’s review the most likely suspects to hit the board.
The undefeated No. 5 Pretty Birdie (3-1) is the class facing a herd of last-out maiden winners. On the plus side, the Norm Casse trainee beat Spinaway rival Saucy Lady T by four lengths in the Schuylerville Stakes (G3).
The pretty gray filly isn’t without her weaknesses. Working hard to hold off a late charge by Mainstay in the Schuylerville, a tired Pretty Birdie flagged her tail when tapped, drifted, and switched back to her left lead.
She returned to breeze a five-furlong bullet in 58.60 in company with the 5-year-old claimer, Its Cold in Dehere. There was no contest, and Pretty Birdie pulled away without being asked.
Pretty Birdie is a product of the famed Whitney Stables breeding program. She is the first runner for her first-crop sire, who was sent to Saudi Arabia after his first year at stud in the U.S. A multiple graded winning son of Unbridled’s Song, Bird Song has four winners from eight starters. Pretty Birdie’s dam was in the money 11 of 12 starts. She’s a half-sister to Golden Rod (G2) runner-up Bird Maker and stakes-placed sprinter Cheechako.
Pretty Birdie’s main competitor is the well-bred No. 3 Echo Zulu (8-5). In July, the Steve Asmussen trainee dominated a field of maidens by 5 1/2 lengths at Ellis Park, and two from that race returned to win and place. Echo Zulu has been training well at Saratoga and moves smoothly over the training track.
Echo Zulu is the daughter of leading first-crop sire Gun Runner, sire of Grade 2 winners Wicked Halo and Pappacap. Echo Zulu has a classy distaff family. Her half-siblings include last year's H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) winner Echo Town, multiple Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo, plus a pair of precocious graded placed runners, Unbridled Outlaw and Dragic. Echo Zulu earned a lofty 96 Brisnet speed figure, the highest in the Spinaway.
No. 1 Tarabi (8-1) outclassed a group of maidens at Ellis Park by 5 1/2 lengths. She followed the pace from the rail and hugged the turn as she slipped by the pacesetters. The Cherie DeVaux trainee responded to whip encouragement by flapping her tail. However, there was no reason for the whip since she was lengths ahead with no challengers.
Tarabi held her own breezing with two older graded placed fillies at Saratoga.
Tarabi is by First Samurai out of an unraced daughter of Indian Charlie. Tarabi’s full brother is a Group 3 winner in Japan. Her second dam Buy the Barrel is a Grade 2 winner.
No. 2 Girl With a Dream (6-1) galloped home a 6 3/4 length winner against Ellis Park maidens in her debut while under a hand ride the entire way by Florent Geroux. It was a decent field, as five of her eight rivals hit the board in their next outing.
The Brad Cox trainee is a swift, competitive sprinter and was hard-held when breezing at Saratoga with stablemates.
First-crop sire Practical Joke is also the sire of Sanford Stakes (G3) winner Wit. Girl With a Dream’s dam is a half-sister to multiple graded-winning turf miler Mr. Commons and multiple stakes-winning turf miler Jungle Fighter.
Echo Zulu and Tarabi have shown the ability to rate in a race filled with speed.
No. 3 Echo Zulu (8-5)
No. 1 Tarabi (8-1)
No. 1 Pretty Birdie (3-1)
No. 2 Girl With a Dream (6-1)