From Last to First, Sippican Harbor Wins the Spinaway

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 3rd, 2018

It might seem like a difficult task to rally from last-to-first in the final three furlongs of a seven-furlong sprint, but Sippican Harbor certainly made the task look easy enough in Saturday’s $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.

The first Grade 1 of the year for two-year-olds attracted eleven starters, but not even a large field and a wide trip could stop Sippican Harbor from rallying to a decisive triumph in the “Win and You’re In” prep race for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Actually, it may have made her task easier.

Despite entering the race off an eye-catching 17-length romp in a maiden special weight at Saratoga, Sippican Harbor was overlooked at 16-1 in the Spinaway Stakes, making her the distant sixth choice behind clear favorite Chasing Yesterday, shipping in from California for trainer Bob Baffert. But Chasing Yesterday never got seriously involved, and when the front-running trio of Guacamole, Nonna Madeline, and Catherinethegreat wound up dueling hard for the lead through fractions of :22.68 and :45.97, the race unfolded perfectly for a deep closer like Sippican Harbor.

With Joel Rosario in the saddle for trainer Gary Contessa, Sippican Harbor had to rally extremely wide at the top of the stretch, but by that point the leaders were tiring noticeably and Sippican Harbor was just reaching full stride. Despite trailing by three lengths at the eighth pole, Sippican Harbor had all the momentum in the final furlong and rolled on by her rivals to win going away by two lengths while recording a final time of 1:23.72 seconds.
The previously unbeaten Restless Rider, entering off an impressive win in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, produced a mild rally from mid-pack to finish second by a neck over the late-running longshot Cassies Dreamer, who—like Sippican Harbor—benefited from the fast early pace. Nonna Madeline performed best of the pacesetters to finish fifth, while Chasing Yesterday came home seventh.

With her berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies secure, the New York Racing Association has reported that Contessa plans to train Sippican Harbor up to the race and have a fresh horse come November at Churchill Downs. As a result, Sippican Harbor will be unproven over the 8 ½-furlong distance of the Juvenile Fillies, a major question mark given what a favorable setup she enjoyed while winning the Spinaway.

Then again, as a daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of a mare by Deputy Minister, Sippican Harbor is bred to excel going longer, so it’s also possible that we’re simply looking at a promising filly with a very bright future.