Untried Grace Hall won the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) like a true professional Sept. 4, stalking the leaders into the stretch and sweeping past favored Judy the Beauty to handily win the $250,000 event at Saratoga.
Trained by Tony Dutrow, Grace Hall raced as part of an entry for owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and Stuart Grant. The daughter of Empire Maker made her $95,000 purchase price at last September's Keeneland yearling sale look like a bargain. In defeating seven 2-year-old filly rivals, she completed the seven-furlong Spinaway distance in 1:23.74 on a fast track. The official winning margin was 1 3/4 lengths.
Darley bred Grace Hall. She is out of the Irish mare Season's Greetings (by Ezzoud) in Kentucky. Now two-for-two in her career, Grace Hall won her debut at Delaware Park by three lengths July 30. She was working smartly at Saratoga for the past month and came into the race off a five-furlong bullet move in 1:00 2/5 Aug. 30.
“I’m overwhelmed," a happy Dutrow said. "We don’t get to do that much. I am so happy. Everybody in horse racing should live through what our team just lived through. We knew there was a lot of risk here. It was deep water.
"Being around her gave me the confidence to try her here today. When I’m watching the race, I’m saying ‘OK, we have a chance.’ For the second race of her life, she answered a lot of questions. There’s a great deal of credit that belongs to her.”
Ramon Dominguez guided the bay filly to victory. Judy the Beauty finished second, well clear of show horse And Why Not.
After breaking alertly, Grace Hall settled on the outside at mid-pack as Born Bullish and Georgie's Angel vied for the lead with Judy the Beauty right behind them on the outside. Grace Hall continued to track the leaders through quarter-mile splits of :22.71 and :45.96.
Judy the Beauty took over at the top of the stretch, gradually putting away her pace rivals. But after drifting out approaching the furlong mark, she lost the lead to the fast-closing Grace Hall, who rallied four wide on the turn before edging away in the final stages under urging from Dominguez.
"Tony expressed to me how much he liked her, and coming from him I knew she had to be special," Dominguez said. "Sure enough, today she showed how good she is; very professional.
“At the three-eighths I kind of tested her. She jumped on the bridle so well and I realized there was nobody on my outside. I chose to stay behind them a little longer so I wouldn’t move out so early. I realized (Judy the Beauty) was still running, but I felt pretty confident I’d be able to run her down.”
Ridden by Jeffrey Sanchez, Judy the Beauty finished nine lengths ahead of And Wny Not and Julien Leparoux.
The winning pot of $150,000 boosted Grace Hall's career earnings to $174,000.
Under equal weights of 119 pounds, Grace Hall paid $8.80, $3.40, and $2.50 as the third betting choice.
Judy the Beauty, owned and trained by Wesley Ward, was undefeated in three starts and making her dirt debut. The daughter of Ghostzapper had previously won over Polytrack at Keeneland and Woodbine and on the grass at Chantilly in France. She returned $3.80 and $3, and capped a $31.60 exacta.
Ward was happy with Judy the Beauty's performance as the 2-1 choice.
“She ran really well. She tried. We kind of forced the pace a little bit, trying to be right there with who we thought was going to be tough," he said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. I'm really proud of her. This is the toughest race, historically in the country, to win for 2-year-old fillies. I’m disappointed, but happy at the same time.”
And Why Not, a first-out maiden winner at Saratoga Aug. 7 for trainer Michael Matz, paid $4 to show.
Georgie's Angel was a half-length back in fourth, followed by Grace Hall's entry mate, True Feelings. Then came Baffle Me, Born Bullish, and Lady Pecan. Vukovar scratched.