Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Appealing Zophie, ridden aggressively at the start by Shaun Bridgmohan, got the jump on her rivals and was never challenged in winning Sunday's $250,000 Spinaway (gr. I) for 2-year-old fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking from the second post in the field of eight on a track rated good, Appealing Zophie held a 2 1/2-length lead over X Star after an opening quarter mile of :22 1/5. She continued to dominate the pace after a half-mile in :45 3/5 and began to pull away from X Star coming off the turn to lead by 3 1/2 lengths in upper stretch. After a couple of cracks of the whip leaving the eighth pole, Appealing Zophie finished strongly in the final furlong, completing the seven-furlong event in 1:23 3/5 while winning by 5 1/2 lengths.
"I was amazed at how fast she was going," Bridgmohan said. "She had her ears up down the backside. I knew once they were coming, she would get back into it and do some running. When I asked her at the top of the stretch to go on with her business, she did."
Schuylerville (gr. III) winner Cotton Blossom, the 2-1 favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher, won her duel with second choice X Star to gain the runner-up spot by a head in the Spinaway, which was upgraded from a grade II race this year. John Velazquez rode Cotton Blossom, while Mario Pino was aboard Delaware shipper X Star.
Trained by Scott Blasi, Appealing Zophie warmed up for the Spinaway by finishing second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Change Up, in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies Aug. 6. That was her first start since April, when she won her debut at 4 1/2 furlongs over a maiden special weight field at Keeneland by 10 1/2 lengths with Bridgmohan aboard. Her $150,000 winner's share increased her earnings to $193,350.
"She's always been brilliant," said Blasi, who has taken control of the Steve Asmussen barn while Asmussen serves a suspension. "When you can start in the 10-post at Keeneland and clear the field by three, you're fast. I thought that was very good filly that beat her at Mountaineer. We hadn't run in a long time and probably didn't have her tight enough.
"She's got a very good turn of foot, and I do think she'll go far. She's got the best quality you can have, and that's speed."
"This filly impressed me very much at Keeneland," Bridgmohan added. "She stumbled out of the gate, and in three strides, she was on the lead. It was amazing how quick she was. She did everything right and won by 10 lengths going four and a half furlongs. That's very impressive."
Luann Baker bred Appealing Zophie, a daughter of Successful Appeal
--Zophie (Hawkster), in Florida. The dark bay filly was sold for $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton in February.
The third choice, Appealing Zophie paid $11.60, $4.70, and $3.10--topping a $33.60 exacta with the previously unbeaten Cotton Blossom, who returned $3.50 and $2.70. X Star, who shipped to Saratoga from Delaware Park for trainer Larry Jones, was $2.50 to show in her second start.
"We're not going home with our tail tucked between our legs," said Jones. "She'll have gained a lot out of this."
Cotton Blossom raced fifth for the opening half-mile and never challenged the winner.
"Johnny said she struggled with the track," Pletcher said of the favorite. "With the way the track was playing today, you wanted to be lying close. It would have been nice to have more pace in there, too. I was happy with the way she finished. Our filly ran a courageous race."
It was 6 1/2 lengths back to fourth-place finisher Post Invader. She was followed by Cool the Economy, Pro Pink, Ruby Crown, and My Favorite.