Look out Saratoga, that man in the brand new red jacket is sending to town another of his prize fillies in quest of another Grade 1 victory.
Bob Baffert, who was enshrined in Saratoga’s Red Jacket club last weekend, won Grade 1 races here last Saturday with the 4-year-old fillies Abel Tasman and Marley’s Freedom. And Chasing Yesterday, American Pharoah’s baby sister, will be favored to follow suit in Saturday’s Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway, the third and last of the graded stakes for 2-year-old fillies to be run here each summer.
The field for the seven-furlong Spinaway is good. It also includes Catherinethegreat and Nonna Madeline, the first- and second-place finishers in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day; the undefeated Restless Rider, runaway winner of the Debutante this summer at Churchill Downs; and stablemates Virginia Eloise and Guacamole, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 2 Adirondack.
Chasing Yesterday’s talents were no secret when she debuted as a 1-5 choice at Del Mar on July 28. The daughter of Tapit won like an odds-on favorite should that day, prompting the early pace before drawing away to a 4 1/4-length victory under jockey Mike Smith, who rode both of Baffert’s Grade 1 winners here last weekend and is scheduled to keep his regular seat aboard Chasing Yesterday in the Spinaway.
Chasing Yesterday earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure, which is tops in the Spinaway lineup.
“She’s training really well,” Baffert said. “I love the way she’s been working. She’s started to fill out, although she doesn’t look at all like American Pharoah. I didn’t want to run her at Del Mar – the 2-year-old fillies are really good out there – although there are no easy races this time of year. And I wanted to get an idea how she’d handle the shipping. She has a nice post and Mike really thought she’d like that track.”
Baffert’s presence in the Spinaway with Chasing Yesterday was certainly not the news any of the opposition wanted to hear, least of all trainer Mark Casse, whose Catherinethegreat exits an impressive 4 1/4-length victory in the six-furlong Schuylerville and would likely be favored but for the imposing presence of Chasing Yesterday.
“I love Bob, but couldn’t he [leave] it alone knowing we’re struggling here?” Casse said with a laugh. “I wish she wasn’t here, but our filly is doing good, she has a race over the track, and a little better post than last time.”
Catherinethegreat drew post 4 on Saturday after having to break from the rail in the Schuylerville.
“I think she’s bigger and stronger than she was coming into the last race, and I don’t think the extra distance will bother her,” Casse said. “And I don’t see her going the first quarter in 21 and 3 like she did in the last one. That should help her along.”
Restless Rider has been away since rallying to an 11 1/4-length triumph in the six-furlong Debutante nine weeks ago in Kentucky. She has had four works locally since arriving from Kentucky, including a bullet five furlongs in 59.20 over the Oklahoma training track on Aug. 17.
“We put together a three-race plan for her after the Debutante – the Spinaway, Alcibiades, and Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, which we think she has a big shot of accomplishing,” trainer Ken McPeek said.
“We decided not to chase some of the shorter races to await the Spinaway, and I believe the seven-eighths should be really good for her. She’s extremely talented. I think the sky’s the limit.”
McPeek was also pleased that Restless Rider will break from post 11 in a field of 12 under regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr.
“It should be a good spot for her,” McPeek said. “She can stalk from out there. We’re locked and loaded and ready to go.”
Todd Pletcher has won the Spinaway six times – more than any other trainer – and he’ll have three shots at making it number seven with Virginia Eloise, Nonna Madeline, and Guacamole.
Virginia Eloise prompted the pace and won her debut by five lengths this summer at Belmont Park. But she inexplicably fell far back before closing with a rush to fall a half-length short of catching Sue’s Fortune at the end of the 5 1/2-furlong Adirondack, a race decided over a very deep and tiring track.
Nonna Madeline broke slowly in the Schuylerville, rushed up the inside to get within a length of Catherinethegreat on the final turn, but proved no match for her. She won her only other start by 3 1/4 lengths at Monmouth Park after also leaving the gate well behind the field.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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