A promising 2-year-old filly over the summer in Southern California, Rick and Sharon Waller's homebred Spectator signaled her promise has extended to her 3-year-old campaign with a game victory in a second-level optional-claiming allowance March 18 at Santa Anita Park.
In her first start since a third-place run in the Sept. 2 Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1), Spectator broke well from the inside post in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint against older fillies and mares, got off the rail to stalk early leader She's No Drama, but appeared to be in trouble in the turn.
As Spectator passed She's No Drama, on her outside came the 4-year-old Yuvetsi to challenge. The older filly even put a head in front in the stretch, but the younger competitor dug in on the inside under jockey Flavien Prat and prevailed by a neck in 1:16.12. The top two were 3 lengths clear of third-place finisher Phantom Proton.
"I was very happy with it. She showed that she has that fight to her and a killer instinct," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato, who also saddled the Jimmy Creed filly to a breakthrough victory in the Aug. 5 Sorrento Stakes (G2). "It was a great prep."
What the allowance race is a prep for, exactly, remains to be seen, but D'Amato indicated he's looking at "a bunch of options," including the Eight Belles Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs May 4 and the April 13 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park.
"There's about three or four races we could potentially shoot to. We just want to see how aggressive we're going to be," D'Amato said. "Ask me in a week."
Spectator was off since September because of some "minor bone bruising," D'Amato said. After the Del Mar Debutante, she got time off at a farm in Hemet, Calif.
"It was nothing that required surgery, just a little (rest and relaxation)," the trainer said. "She's come back as good as ever."
Bred in Kentucky out of the Henny Hughes mare Diva's Tribute, Spectator has three wins from four starts and $223,200 in earnings.