Brightwork pounced from off the pace under Irad Ortiz, Jr. and turned back post-time favorite Ways and Means in the seven-furlong sprint for juvenile fillies.
Brightwork, who entered off a successful graded stakes debut in the Adirondack (G3) on Aug. 6 here, provided trainer John Ortiz with the first Grade 1 victory of his career that began in 2016. In addition to her two graded scores, the talented daughter of Outwork was a winner on debut in April at Keeneland and followed with a strong half-length victory in the Debutante on July 2 at Ellis Park.
“Tears, happiness, joy. I’m ecstatic and proud,” said Ortiz. “These are all the emotions I can think of right now. I thank my Dad and thank God. My family has supported me. My uncles are here, my cousins are here. Jared [Hughes, bloodstock agent] is like my older brother, Bill Simon and his family. This is such a big deal. We’re like one big, giant family and I couldn’t be more blessed right now.”
Brightwork is owned by Bill Simon’s WSS Racing, who also won his first Grade 1 as an owner. He echoed Ortiz’s sentiments.
"There are really no words to describe it,” said Simon. “I’m so proud of Johnny and what he’s done with the horse; Jared, who picked him out; Daniel Ortiz, Johnny’s brother, has been living up here with Brightwork for the summer and they deserve all the credit. It’s just a phenomenal feeling.”
Brightwork emerged from post 8 with 2-5 mutuel favorite Ways and Means to her inside and Lemorian – a gate-to-wire winner last out at Horseshoe Indianapolis – to her outside. Lemorian broke sharpest of all, but relinquished the advantage to the Junior Alvarado-piloted Sugar Hi as she rushed up to lead with Lemorian and Lady Moscato close to her early foot.
“The horse beside me, last time she broke from the one-hole at Indiana but she outbreak everybody and I know she’s going to be quick,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “So, I say, maybe I let her go and stalk there and maybe I can bide my time and I know the horse I have to beat is the horse inside of me. That’s what I tried to do and it worked out perfect.”
Ways and Means, with Flavien Prat up, tracked just behind Brightwork down the backstretch, but had to steady slightly as she attempted to maneuver to the outside, clipped heels with that rival and lost a touch of ground with the first quarter-mile in 22.40 seconds over the fast main track.
“She was getting out bad and as soon as that horse outside of me [Brightwork] cleared, I mean as soon as he went in front of me, she just ducked out and I clipped heels,” said Prat. “It's just she was trying to get away from the inside.”
A patient Ortiz, Jr. kept Brightwork widest of all approaching the turn with Ways and Means following her run before Prat angled his charge to the outside of Brightwork to loom large midway through the turn through a half-mile in 45.09. Sugar Hi maintained her rail-skimming position and attempted to hold her advantage as Lemorian backpedaled between foes, but Brightwork ranged up to stick her head in front at the top of the lane.
Brightwork, under left-handed encouragement from Ortiz, Jr., drew clear of Sugar Hi and the advancing Wonder Ride approaching the eighth pole, leaving her with just Ways and Means to deal with after three-quarters in 1:09.80. A determined Ways and Means gave chase through the stretch and inched closer with every stride as the pair drew clear of Wonder Ride, but Brightwork would not let Ways and Means tarnish her perfect record and reached the wire first by a half-length in a final time of 1:23.17.
Ways and Means finished 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Wonder Ride with Alys Beach rallying from well off the pace to complete the superfecta another 1 3/4 lengths back. Closing Act, Sugar Hi, Lady Moscato and Lemorian completed the order of finish. Becky’s Joker was scratched.
Miz Sense unseated jockey Manny Franco at the gate and was declared a non-starter by the board of stewards. Both Franco and Miz Sense walked off under their own power.
Ortiz said he left race tactics in the capable hands of Ortiz, Jr., the leading rider at the Spa meet.
“Irad came out and looked at me. We had one second to give instructions,” said Ortiz. “He looked at me and said, ‘What’s up?’ and I said, ‘Just win!’ He said, ‘The filly on the outside has speed, I think I’ll let her break and go and we’ll sit off.' He was going to dictate when the race was going to start and he did. She got the job done.”
With a bonus towards the Breeders’ Cup now in his pocket as part of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen series, Ortiz said he will consider options for a bridge race for Brightwork ahead of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park. Potential stepping stones towards that goal could come in the Alcibiades (G1) on October 6 at Keeneland, or the Chandelier (G2) the following day at Santa Anita.
“We could either go to the Alcibiades, the race in California, or just go straight to the Breeders’ Cup,” said Ortiz. “We’ll let her dictate where she wants to go. You have to think about shipping to California and she has to acclimate to it. It’s a difficult trip to California but it’s been done before and this is where we’re going.”
Bred in Kentucky by Wynnstay, Inc. and H. Allen Poindexter, Brightwork banked $165,000, improving her lifetime earnings to $444,051. She returned $8 for a $2 win ticket.