Don’t look now, but the Brad Cox trained Spelling Again is becoming a force within the older mare division. That much was clear after a very impressive 4 ½ length romp in Saturday's Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Sent off as the 3-1 third choice off a fourth place finish in the Grade 2 TCA Stakes at Keeneland last time, in which she was beaten only two lengths after a troubled trip, Spelling Again found a good stalking position early under rider Shaun Bridgmohan. Tracking the early leader, Keen Pauline, through fractions of :23.47 and :46.42, the four-year-old daughter of Awesome Again made her move on the far turn of the one-mile test.
It looked like she might have plenty of competition as the solid field of seven came spinning out of the turn, but Spelling Again who had just struck the lead, had not even done her best running yet. As the other Chilukki fillies and mares began to spin their wheels behind her, the Seajay Racing LLC owned filly kicked away and made the Churchill Downs feature a one-horse affair to the wire.
For the Louisville native winning trainer, the ease of victory was a bit of an eye-opener. "No shocker that she won but for her to kick away from those kind of fillies the way that she did was a little bit of a shock," Cox said. "Shaun rode her great. ... Shaun is just so quiet and sits quiet on her and lets her do her thing. When he asks her to go, she goes."
The victory was Spelling Again’s second stakes win at Churchill Downs in her last three starts, having accounted for the Open Mind Stakes on September 12. Perhaps more telling, she raised her record on dirt to 3-of-5, after having run on synthetics and turf the initial ten starts of her career.
Ahh Chocolate rallied in the middle of the track to prove second best, a head in front of Gold Medal Dancer. Meanwhile, the 7-5 favorite, Birdatthewire, making her first start since the Kentucky Oaks six months ago, came up empty late, and could do no better than a fifth place finish.
Final time over the fast main track for Spelling Again was a solid 1:35.75. She rewarded her wagering supporters with $8.60 payoff for the win, while the $2 exacta over the 7-1 Ahh Chocolate returned $53.
Spelling Again earned $121,520 for the win, which raised her career stats to 5-of-15, with $301,426 in the bank. Out of the Alphabet Soup mare Spelling, she was bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge. Claimed for $40,000 in May, and sent to the barn of Cox, the next start for Spelling Again is yet to be determined, with the Grade 2, nine furlong Falls City at Churchill Downs over the big Thanksgiving weekend, being only a slight possibility.
"We'll see how she comes out of this. It's probably back a shade quick and I'm not so sure she wants to go that far. She is a high-energy filly but sometimes she doesn't want to rate. To rate around two turns is a lot different than it is around one turn mile or seven-eighths. We'll let her tell us."