Naughty Gal leads talented field of juvenile fillies in G1 Spinaway
by David Blicksilver
Holy Cow Stable’s graded stakes winner Naughty Gal headlines a talented field of 10 juvenile fillies in Sunday’s 131st running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway, part of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen qualifying incentive on the road to the Breeders’ Cup in November at Keeneland, at Saratoga Race Course.
The seven-furlong main track sprint is named after the chestnut filly who won 7-of-9 career starts. A daughter of Leamington out of the Eclipse mare Megara, Spinaway’s career ended at age 3 in 1881 before becoming a successful broodmare. Among her progeny was a granddaughter, Tanya, who won the 1905 Belmont Stakes. The Spinaway has been conquered by some of racing’s most talented fillies including Hall of Famers Cicada , Ruffian  and Ashado . The last two winners of the Spinaway, Vequist  and Echo Zulu , went on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in November en route to Eclipse Award honors as Champion 2-Year-Old Filly.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will look to become the winningest trainer of the race when he saddles Naughty Gal against nine rivals, including Kaling, trained by Lukas mentee and fellow Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who is tied with Lukas with six Spinaway wins.
Naughty Gal [post 4, Jose Ortiz] graduated impressively at second asking, taking a six-furlong maiden event by 9 1/4-lengths at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Into Mischief immediately followed by making the grade in the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack on August 7 at the Spa, defeating third place finisher and returning rival Sabra Tuff.
Naughty Gal has breezed back once since her stakes score, covering a half-mile in 49.49 seconds on August 16 over the Oklahoma training track, and Lukas said his filly should benefit from being one of the more experienced horses in the field.
“That’s a planned program to have a little more experience,” said Lukas. “My job is to make sure they’re on their game when they get to this Grade 1 level. You don’t want to be wondering. We planned her program to have her at this point.”
Lukas said facing Pletcher in a Grade 1 event is always an exciting experience.
“I enjoy it and I pull for him,” said Lukas. “Let’s just hope that we keep it in the family. On numerous occasions when we’ve been in the same field and they’re turning for home, if it doesn’t look like we can win my wife and I both will start hollering for Todd. That’s a very satisfying thing.”
Bred in Florida by Loren Nichols, Naughty Gal is 3-2-0-0 with $148,735 in earnings.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Kaling [post 1, Flavien Prat] will make the jump to Grade 1 level off of a debut maiden score July 24 at the Spa.
Kaling turned heads when, under the guidance of jockey Flavien Prat, she posted a 2 3/4-length win over the Wesley Ward-trained Rarify, who is a half-sister to Champion Sprinter Runhappy.
Pletcher said Kaling has trained forwardly out of that maiden score, which saw her post a co-field high 77 Beyer Speed Figure, breezing back three times, including a half-mile in 48.24 August 28 over the Spa main track.
“Very professional debut,” said Pletcher. “She trained like she was going to run well in her first start and we’re happy that she did. She’s come back with some more good breezes since then.”
A daughter of Practical Joke, Kaling was purchased for $220,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale from the Penn Sales consignment.
D. J. Stable’s Wonder Wheel [post 9, John Velazquez] will look to build on her stakes success after the Into Mischief dark bay captured the six-furlong Debutante last out on July 4 at Churchill Downs in gate-to-wire fashion, defeating six rivals including the returning Sabra Tuff.
Trained by Hall of Famer Mark Casse, the undefeated Wonder Wheel also debuted at the Louisville oval, displaying off-the-pace tactics when she closed from fifth-of-7 to draw away by 2 1/4-lengths.
Casse said he has extremely high expectations for his filly.
“She’s the first horse I look at in the morning and the last one I look at when I leave, so that tells you everything,” said Casse. “[She’s training] fantastic. Look, with horse racing you never can tell, but if she doesn’t [perform well], I’ll be shocked.”
Out of the multiple Grade 1-placed mare Wonder Gal, Wonder Wheel was purchased for $275,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Clarkland Farm’s undefeated Kentucky homebred Just Cindy [post 5, Luis Saez] will attempt to make it 3-for-3 after capturing the six-furlong Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day at the Spa when she broke from the rail in a seven-horse field.
The daughter of Justify has won both of her starts in stalking fashion, pouncing on rivals in the stretch run and prevailing both times by 2 1/4-lengths. The last out Schuylerville score garnered a 73 Beyer. She returned to Kentucky after that race and has trained weekly at Keeneland, recording five half-mile works between starts for conditioner Eddie Kenneally.
Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Kentucky homebred American Rockette [post 10, Junior Alvarado] will look to continue in the footsteps of a talented family tree for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. The daughter of American Pharoah, out of the Indian Charlie mare Rocket Twentyone, is a half-sister to the Mott-trained multiple-graded stakes winner Frank’s Rockette.
American Rockette debuted July 21 at the Spa in an off-the-turf maiden special weight, closing from 8 1/2 lengths off the lead after breaking last-of-9 and having to go five-wide at the quarter-pole.
Rounding out the field is the graded stakes-placed Sabra Tuff [post 7, Manuel Franco]; and maiden winners Miss Georgie [post 2, Victor Carrasco], Apple Picker [post 3, Dylan Davis], Leave No Trace [post 6, Jose Lezcano] and Aunt Shirley [post 8, Irad Ortiz, Jr.]
The Spinaway is slated as Race 11 on Sunday’s 12-race card. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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