Skye Diamonds wins the Great Lady M. Stakes

Skye Diamonds wins the Great Lady M. Stakes

Benoit Photo

Skye Diamonds on the Rise Heading Into Rancho Bernardo

First Dude filly will once gain have to take on grade 1 winner Constellation.

Trainer Bill Spawr maintains he was not that surprised when Skye Diamonds put away a champion and another grade 1 winner in the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) July 8 at Los Alamitos Race Course.

The 77-year-old conditioner, with six races of experience working with the 4-year-old daughter of First Dude , knew what he had and what the filly had become.

But he keeps going back to a conditional optional-claiming allowance in February—her fourth start after he claimed Skye Diamonds for owners Allen Racing, Bloom Racing, Tom Acker, and Jon Lindo—as the moment she truly knocked his socks off.

"I was stunned what I saw that day. I couldn't even move," Spawr said of the 5 3/4-length victory in the six-furlong test at Santa Anita Park. "I was sitting and watching it and I couldn't move. I kept saying, 'What just happened?' My assistant finally told me, 'We've got to go down to the winner's circle.'"

Spawr may not have been surprised with her 2 1/2-length victory over grade 1 winner Constellation in the Great Lady M. (champion female sprinter Finest City was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third), but the bettors weren't, either. Sensing a filly on the rise, bettors sent her off at 2-1 in her toughest class test yet, and she rewarded their confidence.

BALAN: Former Claimer Skye Diamonds Wins Great Lady M.

Up next for Skye Diamonds, with an eye on the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), is the $100,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap (G3) Aug. 13 at Del Mar, where she'll encounter Constellation once again, along with Claiborne Farm's last-out Desert Stormer Stakes (G3) winner Bendable.

Spawr is hopeful the Rancho Bernardo will set Skye Diamonds up well, with a little break in between, for the trainer's first Breeders' Cup starter since Amazombie took the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) to clinch the 2011 championship for top sprinter.

"Knowing her we'll probably give her time and go right into the Breeders' Cup," Spawr said. "It's crazy to think about (how far she has come since we claimed her). There's probably a lot of luck involved, but a lot of work too and a lot of people who helped along the way. ... I've been asked to compare her with Amazombie, but that was before the Great Lady M. She's the real deal."

As well as Skye Diamonds ran in the Great Lady M., she may be facing a fitter Constellation this time around in the 6 1/2-furlong Rancho Bernardo. The Great Lady M. was the Bellamy Road filly's first start in three months, following a neck second in the Madison Stakes (G1) at Keeneland April 8. Completely fit or not, the filly owned by LNJ Foxwoods has yet to run a poor race in five starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (she was previously with Steve Asmussen).

Constellation took the Dec. 26 La Brea Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park in her second start for Hollendorfer and has only finished worse than second twice in her 11-race career—a third-place run in the 2015 Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga Race Course and a fourth-place finish in the 2016 Cicada Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, both for Asmussen.

BALAN: Constellation Digs in to Win La Brea

Bendable, a Horse Greeley filly trained by Richard Mandella, also enters in the top form of her career. Following a significant layoff after her 2016 finale, when she finished third in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2) at Keeneland in October, Bendable returned to win the six-furlong Desert Stormer by 1 1/2 lengths.

BALAN: Bendable Returns From Injury to Take Desert Stormer

Another filly on the rise is Ruis Racing's Rockport Babe, who is riding back-to-back conditional optional-claiming allowance victories at Santa Anita, into her first stakes try.

The field is completed by Munny Spunt, a $25,000 claim by Doug O'Neill in June, who came back to win a $32,000 claiming event at Del Mar July 29. The Munnings  filly broke her maiden for a $30,000 tag in March at Santa Anita and won two conditional claiming events for her previous trainer, Jeff Mullins.

Entries: Rancho Bernardo H. (G3)

Del Mar, Sunday, August 13, 2017, Race 6

  • Grade III
  • 6 1/2f
  • Dirt
  • $100,000
  • 3 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 4:33 PM (local)
11Rockport Babe (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMartin Garcia116Mick Ruis10/1
22Bendable (KY)Mike E. Smith123Richard E. Mandella9/5
33Skye Diamonds (CA)Tiago Josue Pereira122William Spawr8/5
44Constellation (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat123Jerry Hollendorfer2/1
55Munny Spunt (FL)Keeneland Sales GraduateDrayden Van Dyke112Doug F. O'Neill15/1