Spelling Again holds off Cali Star in Princess Rooney
Spelling Again held off a late surge from Cali Star in Saturday's $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) at Gulfstream Park, earning an automatic entry in the TwinSpires.com Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita in November.
A tracking fourth as My Miss Venezuela set a lively pace of :22.49 and :45.12, Spelling Again made a three-wide bid for the lead around the far turn, took control around the quarter pole, then shook off Kiss to Remember in upper stretch. Under Luis Saez, the five-year-old daughter of Awesome Again opened up a one-length lead in mid-stretch and gamely held on to win by a neck, covering seven furlongs in 1:22.09 over a fast track. Finishing third was 11-10 favorite Birdatthewire.
Owned by Seajay Racing and trained by Brad Cox, Spelling Again returned $8.80.
"It was a fantastic race. It was a great effort," Cox said. "She probably had to move a little prematurely with [Kiss to Remember] coming up on the outside of her on the turn. But Luis recognized it and stayed after her, put that one away and held off [Cali Star].
"We obviously wouldn't have flown her down there if we didn't expect her to run well. She's a tough horse who overcomes things. She overcame some things, the tough trip and shipping, and she rewarded us today with a big effort.
"I'm a one-race-at-a-time kind of guy. I was thinking the (August 6) Groupie Doll (G3) at Ellis, but I'll let her totally dictate where she'll run next time.
"She's in good for and doing great, she obviously earned a slot (in the Breeders' Cup), but it will be totally up to her how she's doing if we go that far with her."
Claimed for $40,000 in May 2015, Spelling Again has since captured the Chilukki (G2) and $100,000 Open Mind at Churchill Downs and placed in the Go for Wand H. (G3), Ruffian (G2), and Winning Colors (G3). Bred in Pennsylvania by George Strawbridge, her record now stands at 20-6-3-5, $517,576.
Earlier in the card, Dearest won for the fourth time in five attempts by taking the $100,000 Azalea for three-year-old fillies.
Despite losing his whip at the start, jockey Emissael Jaramillo only had to hand ride the daughter of Midshipman to a popular 1 1/2-length score over longshot Smartly Agree as the 1-5 favorite.
Owned by Gelfenstein Farm and trained by Gilberto Zerpa, Dearest covered seven furlongs on a good track in 1:22.81 and paid $2.40.
Previously the winner of the $75,000 Royal Palm at Gulfstream on June 4, Dearest endured her only loss to Cathryn Sophia in the Davona Dale (G2) back in February. She's now earned $173,550.
Zerpa said Dearest would point for the Test (G1) at Saratoga, with the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint the ultimate goal.
(Adam Coglianese Photography)