Got Lucky was just that Oct. 4 at Keeneland, finding running room from far back and closing past champion Untapable and longshot Yahilwa in the final furlong to win the the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I).
The 4-year-old filly from the last crop of A.P. Indy picked up her first grade I victory for trainer Todd Pletcher, and in the process secured an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I). She ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.44 on a fast track.
The winner races for Philip J. Steinberg and Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, and was bred in Kentucky by Hill 'n' Dale out of the late Deputy Minister mare Malka. She gave Hill 'n' Dale owner John Sikura his first grade I Keeneland win as an owner.
"She was born and raised on the farm," Sikura said. "We bred (the mare) to A.P. Indy, I think, five times in his last year and this is how she got the name. My partner Phil said, 'Do you think we should quit?' And I said, 'No, we'll go to the end. We've gone this far, we'll take our chances.'
"The mare died of a very rare cancer, so it's a great reward to have a filly like this from the last crop of a great stallion and a really good family we raised."
Off at odds of 7-2 in a field of nine after her runner-up finish to Sheer Drama in the Aug. 29 Personal Ensign (gr. I), Got Lucky and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. settled at the back of the pack early, as Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Lovely Maria showed the way tracked by Yahilwa. Untapable, favored at 8-5, chased a quarter in :23.62 and a half in :46.89 while running fourth, then third.
Rounding the turn for home through three-quarters in 1:11.01, Untapable took on Yahilwa, who proved to be a determined foe. But it was Got Lucky who found just enough ground to secure the victory after a 1:36.16 mile, rolling home to win by a neck.
"I followed (Pletcher's) instructions," Ortiz said. "Last time (in the Personal Ensign) I was a little too far back. She came late. Today she broke good. I was in the back, and she came running at the end. I wanted to save ground. I stayed close to the rail and then swung her out. When she got clear, she took off. I thought I had a pretty good shot (to win)."
It was the fourth score of the season for Got Lucky, who won the Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. III) and Lady's Secret Stakes this summer at Monmouth Park and also took a Gulfstream Park allowance in January. Last year she was fifth in the Spinster, a race that capped her 3-year-old season and put her on the shelf until that January victory this year.
"Now I know the allure of why people buy yearlings like this... is to feel like this," Sikura said. "When you sell a horse really well, it feels good for the moment, but winning with a good horse—it feels good forever."
Got Lucky returned $9.20, $4.20, and $3.20. With the Spinster victory, she improved her record to six wins and six seconds from 16 starts for earnings of $951,340. The produce of her female family includes Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver and grade I winner Girolamo .
Untapable held second by a head to bring $2.60 and $2.60, and Yahilwa was third, worth $8.60 to show. Trainer Steve Asmussen said was not entirely pleased with Untapable's agressive run.
"Story of her year," he remarked. "She was pretty aggressive behind horses on the first turn and she didn't really relax once she got to the outside of those. I wish she would have relaxed a little better. But she fought hard. She's a good mare that's not running her best races. She ran well, but that's not her best.
"We brought her here so she could get a feel for the track. This is the first time she has stepped on it that it isn't muddy. Hopefully things will go smoothly with her from here. She has had an extremely disappointing year, (yet) she has run out ($800,000). It's frustrating."