Trainer Tony Reinstedler knows his talented filly Sand Springs has a stubborn streak, so her behavior since her last race tells him she's ready for a big effort in Saturday's $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.Willmott Stable's 4-year-old daughter of Dynaformer is coming off a fourth-place finish in her 2004 debut, the Argent Mortgage Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIIT), which was won by Shaconage on May 1, Kentucky Derby Day. "She is a difficult filly to train," Reinstedler said. "She's done really, really well since that race and I thought she'd get a lot out of it. I'm looking for a good effort here this weekend."
Sand Springs, who carries top weight of 120 pounds as the 5-2 morning line favorite Saturday, does much of her training in the relative isolation of the mile chute at Churchill Downs, where her determined nature will not get her into trouble. Among her eight rivals is Shaconage, who gets three pounds from Sand Springs.
"She's the type of filly that you kind of have to let her do her thing and keep her happy," Reinstedler said. "Hopefully it works out in the long run."
Things have worked out pretty well for Sand Springs since Reinstedler decided to let the filly run and train the way she wanted. An effort to harness her speed resulted in a disastrous race when she bore out badly on the far turn and did not finish in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race in the final start of her 2-year-old season.
Reinstedler gave Sand Springs some time and she returned last spring at Churchill Downs and reeled off a string of three front-running wins that culminated with a wire-to-wire victory in the Regret (gr. III). Sand Springs then took her free-running style to California for a strong runner-up finish in the $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park and then won the Lake Placid (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. She turned in her only poor performance of the year in the Garden City Breeders' Cup (gr. IT) at Belmont Park and then completed her season with a troubled ninth-place finish in the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
"We tried to rate her and it never really worked out for us," said Reinstedler. "We just kind of let her ramble and roll and she's done well doing that."
Sand Springs rolled to a three-length lead in the Argent Mortgage, but tired in the stretch and finished fourth. She finished just 2 1/2-lengths behind the winner in that one-mile race and Reinstedler is confident that fans will see the real Sand Springs when regular jockey Mark Guidry climbs back into the saddle for the Early Times Mint Julep.
"I consider the last race as just kind of a tightener," he said. "She's going to dictate what happens. She's prominent and she's going to be prominent and it's just how much she relaxes and just how much Guidry gets her to relax down the backside."
Sand Springs' record is 5-2-1 in 13 races with earnings of $525,567. $150,000-added Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT), fillies & mares 4 & up, 1 1/6 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Jockey, Wgt., ML Odds
1. River Flower (KY), Mary Elizabeth Doser, 113, 20/1
2. Two Dot Slew (KY), Rafael Bejarano, 114, 12/1
3. Stay Forever (FL), Eddie Castro, 116, 5/1
4. Daisyago (KY), John McKee, 113, 15/1
5. Eternal Melody (NZ), Pat Day, 115, 5/1
6. Kitty's Legend (KY), Robby Albarado, 111, 15/1
7. Shaconage (KY), Brice Blanc, 117, 5/1
8. Sand Springs (KY), Mark Guidry, 120, 5/2
9. Aud (KY), Brian Dale Peck, 117, 3/1