Using History to Handicap the 2019 Spinster Stakes

Gambling
A fan pointing out her pick at Keeneland. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Get ready, racing fans! As the Breeders’ Cup draws closer and closer, NBC Sports will head to Keeneland on Sunday to broadcast the $500,000 Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes.

This 1 1/8-mile race is expected to draw a high-quality field of prominent contenders for the Nov. 2 Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita with the winner of the Spinster receiving an automatic “Win and You’re In” qualifying berth to the Distaff.

Looking forward to watching the action unfold? The broadcast kicks off at 4:30 p.m. ET. Want to get a head start identifying the most likely winner? We’ve got you covered there too. The following tips and trends (based off the last ten editions of the Spinster) will help point you toward the filly or mare most likely to reach the winner’s circle at Keeneland this Sunday.

Let’s dig in!

Support Late Runners and Deep Closers

Speed horses haven’t fared very well in recent editions of the Spinster Stakes. While the return of dirt racing at Keeneland has marginally improved their results - Romantic Vision (2017) and I’m a Chatterbox (2016) employed pace-tracking tactics to prevail - overall, seven of the last ten Spinster winners raced in the back half of the field during the opening half-mile.

As a general rule, I don’t recommend relying heavily on deep closers in major dirt races. But the Spinster Stakes seems to go against the grain more often than not, so if the horse you like employs a late-running style, you can consider this a positive.

Year

Winner

Position after first 1/2-mile

1/2-mile & 3/4-mile (track condition)

2018

Blue Prize

8th by 4.25 lengths (11 starters)

47.62, 1:12.27 (fast)

2017

Romantic Vision

2nd by 1.5 lengths (9 starters)

48.26, 1:12.56 (sloppy, sealed)

2016

I’m a Chatterbox

2nd by 1 length (5 starters)

48.30, 1:12.57 (fast)

2015

Got Lucky

8th by 6 lengths (9 starters)

46.89, 1:11.01 (fast)

2014

Don’t Tell Sophia

6th by 10.5 lengths (6 starters)

47.47, 1:11.71 (fast)

2013

Emollient

11th by a 6.75 lengths (11 starters)

47.30, 1:11.03 (fast)

2012

In Lingerie

4th by 1.5 lengths (10 starters)

47.97, 1:12.41 (fast)

2011

Aruna

7th by 6.5 lengths (12 starters)

46.41, 1:10.76 (fast)

2010

Acoma

6th by 7 lengths (10 starters)

47.34, 1:11.48 (fast)

2009

Mushka

9th by 8 lengths (11 starters)

46.96, 1:11.12 (fast)

Bet Runners from Churchill Downs and Saratoga

Fillies and mares who prepped for the Spinster at nearby Churchill Downs have been running well in recent editions of the Spinster, producing three of the last five winners and seven of the last fifteen trifecta finishers.

But spanning back over the last decade, Saratoga in New York still rates as the key place to prep, producing five winners and 10 of the last 30 trifecta finishers.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, avoid playing shippers from California. Over the last decade, nine fillies who prepped in the Golden State have contested the Spinster, with only a single third-place finish to show for their efforts.

Experience at Keeneland is Beneficial

It pays to have experience at Keeneland under your belt. Seven of the last ten Spinster winners had previously contested a race over the Keeneland main track, with six of them scoring at least one victory at Keeneland prior to their Spinster success.

Favor Proven Grade 1 Competitors

The Spinster is a Grade 1 race and Grade 1-quality fillies and mares typically wind up in the winner’s circle. Every Spinster winner over the last decade had previously contested a Grade 1 race, with nine of the ten winning or placing at the Grade 1 level. The lone exception was Mushka, who was awarded victory in the 2009 Spinster via the disqualification of Grade 1-placed Proviso. Mushka’s previous best finish in a Grade 1 event was a fourth-place effort in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

The Bettors Usually Get it Right

While longshots occasionally prevail in the Spinster - 23-1 Acoma in 2010 being one example - for the most part, favorites and short-priced contenders reap the rewards. Over the last decade, four favorites have reached the Spinster winner’s circle, while another five winners offered odds between 3.60-1 and 6.40-1. Furthermore, horses starting at single-digit odds have filled 21 of the 30 trifecta spots since 2009.

Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott Warrant Respect

Trainers Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott don’t enter fillies and mares in the Spinster every time they turn around, so it’s noteworthy that they’ve each won this race twice since 2009. Pletcher saddled Got Lucky (2015) and In Lingerie (2012), while Mott achieved his victories with Emollient (2013) and Mushka (2009).

Mares Often Outrun Their Younger Rivals

While major dirt races tend to be the domain of younger horses, mares aged five and older have accounted for four of the last ten editions of the Spinster. This is significant when you consider fillies aged three or four have won 18 of the last 20 editions of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which more accurately reflects the youth-favoring tendencies of races like these.

Conclusion

There are a few high-quality Grade 1 competitors targeting the Spinster Stakes, including the 3-year-old sensation Dunbar Road, the consistent She’s a Julie, and the versatile veteran Vexatious.

But from a historical perspective, they’ll be hard-pressed to defeat Elate, who fits every single tip and trend we’ve outlined:

  • She’s a late runner.
  • She prepped at Saratoga with a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes.
  • She ran over the Keeneland main track in the 2017 Grade 1 Ashland Stakes.
  • She’s a two-time Grade 1 winner with ample experience contesting races at the highest level.
  • She’ll almost certainly be favored in the wagering.
  • She’s trained by Bill Mott
  • She’s five years old.

From the perspective of history, how can we possibly play against Elate in the Spinster? By these metrics, she appears to be a shoo-in for victory.

Good luck and enjoy the race!

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