Proud Spell has already proved she can beat the nation’s best 3-year-old fillies, doing it twice in grade I company. Now, says trainer Larry Jones, “chasing the dollars makes sense.”
On Sept. 20, Proud Spell will shoot for her biggest payday to date, as she takes on six rivals in the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II) at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack. On paper, the 1 1/16-mile dirt event is a significant step down in class for the Proud Citizen filly, who has won four times this season, including the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Alabama Stakes (gr. I).
“You know with Philadelphia Park just kind of being in our backdoor, I mean, we’re an hour from Philadelphia, so the Fitz Dixon Cotillion was on our list early,” said Jones, who is based out of Delaware Park. “They put up a lot of money for it, like I said, it’s close – it makes every kind of sense in the world to be here.”
The Cotillion could wind up being Proud Spell’s final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita Oct. 24. Jones originally said the Breeders’ Cup was not on the radar for Proud Spell, but left the door open in a Sept. 16 national teleconference by saying “We may well be going to California.”
Jones has been working Proud Spell on the Tapeta surface at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland in case they do decide to go to the Breeders’ Cup, which will be held on Santa Anita’s newly-installed Pro-Ride. Her last work was Sept. 15 when she turned in a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.40.
Owned and bred by Brereton Jones, Proud Spell has won two straight, beginning with a three-quarters of a length victory in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II) July 12. Last out, she outdueled Music Note by a head in the Aug. 16 Alabama at Saratoga.
Proud Spell, who has produced a record of 7-2-2 from 11 starts and has earned more than $1.9 million, will carry 124 pounds in the Cotillion, her most to date. She will give five to 10 pounds to her rivals. Regular rider Gabriel Saez will get the mount on the probable odds-on favorite.
“Proud Spell is not a very big horse, so spotting as much as 10 pounds, that could always be a concern,” Jones said. “But hopefully her oversized exercise rider has got her prepped up to packing at least 124 pounds, so hopefully that won’t be an issue.”
Mercedes Stables’ Seattle Smooth may have the best chance to pull the upset. The Tony Dutrow trainee enters off an impressive 7 1/4-length score in the Go for Wand Stakes at Delaware Park Aug. 30, which was her second stakes score of the season. The Quiet American filly also took the Bay Meadows Oaks in April.
Seattle Smooth is unplaced in three graded stakes, however, the last one coming on the turf in the San Clemente Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar when she was ninth. Jose Lezcano has been named to ride for the first time.
Rick Dutrow Jr. also has a filly to keep an eye on – By the Light. The daughter of Malibu Moon has won six of seven lifetime starts, including a half-length victory in her most recent effort, the Aug. 18 Union Avenue Stakes. That one, like two of her other scores, came against restricted New York-bred company.
By the Light has had success in open company too, as she won the Boyd’s Gaming Delta Princess last December and was second to Indian Blessing in the July 5 Prioress (gr. I), her first try in a graded stakes event. Owned by Jay Em Ess Stable, By the Light will be stretching out beyond a mile for the first time in her career. Edgar Prado will be aboard.
Jeff Singer’s Never Retreat enters off a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) at Belmont last out, but still possesses the talent to run with these. In fact, two starts ago in the June 28 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) she finished third, less than two lengths behind Proud Spell in a race that Music Note won. Never Retreat was eventually placed second after Proud Spell was disqualified for interference in the stretch.
$750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion (gr. II, Race 9, 3:50 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Color Me Up (KY), 114, Frankie Pennington
2. Million Dollar Run (KY), 114, Kendrick Carmouche
3. Never Retreat (KY), 114, Garrett K. Gomez
4. Seattle Smooth (KY), 119, Jose Lezcano
5. Picker (KY), 114, (No Rider)
6. Proud Spell (KY), 124, Gabriel Saez
7. By the Light (NY), 114, Edgar S. Prado