Through the years, the $400,000 Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland has been won by some of the fleetest fillies and mares to ever grace American racetracks. Princess Rooney… Bayakoa… Paseana… Inside Information… Azeri… the list goes on and on.
As a result, the 1 1/8-mile Spinster serves as a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff, which is slated to take place on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. This means the 2020 Spinster, scheduled for Sunday, is essentially a track-and-distance dress rehearsal for the Distaff, making the race even more significant than usual.
Half a dozen fillies and mares have been entered in the Spinster, led by the rapidly-improving 3-year-old #3 Shedaresthedevil. The daughter of Daredevil has shown promise all year long, winning the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes during the winter and the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks in the summer. But Shedaresthedevil elevated her game to a new level in the Sept. 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks, tracking the pace before edging clear to defeat Grade 1 winners Swiss Skydiver and Gamine in determined fashion.
This effort produced strong speed figures of 101 (Beyer) and 106 (Brisnet), suggesting Shedaresthedevil is maturing into a very talented filly. Then again, the Kentucky Oaks marked such a huge step forward for Shedaresthedevil on the speed figure scales, it’s fair to winder if she can repeat those numbers while stepping up against older rivals in the Spinster.
Certainly the pace scenario figures to be more testing. Shedaresthedevil prefers to race on or near the lead, and in the Kentucky Oaks she benefited from tracking modest fractions of :23.39, :47.92, and 1:12.12 – quite manageable on a day when the track was playing very fast.
Shedaresthedevil seems unlikely to receive such a favorable trip in the Spinster. Groupie Doll Stakes winner #6 Lady Kate is a pure front-runner who used her speed to finish second in the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Oak Grove Racing and Gaming at Churchill Downs last month, beaten only by champion Monomoy Girl. #4 Our Super Freak is almost always forwardly placed, most notably finishing second after dueling for command in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park during the summer.
But the most formidable speed horse in the Spinster field is surely #2 Ollie’s Candy. Winner of the 2019 Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, Ollie’s Candy has been an elite performer since 2018 and has cracked the top three in 12 of her 14 starts.
Ollie’s Candy is technically 0-for-4 in 2020, but she’s hardly been disgraced while competing against tough competition. Traveling the country to compete at Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park, Belmont Park, and Del Mar, Ollie’s Candy has finished third or better in four straight Grade 1 races. Even more impressively, she lost three of them – the Apple Blossom Handicap, the Ogden Phipps Stakes, and the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes – by a combined margin of less than a length.
Tactical speed is Ollie’s Candy’s greatest asset, as she displayed in the Apple Blossom. After dueling for the lead through rapid fractions of :22.20 and :45.51, Ollie’s Candy kicked clear by 2 ½ lengths in the homestretch, only to be caught late by multiple Grade 1 winner Ce Ce. And while tracking tactics saw Ollie’s Candy finish second in the Clement L. Hirsch, she ran a big race in defeat, coming up half a length short while posting solid speed figures of 100 (Beyer) and 104 (Brisnet).
If you examine the Brisnet E1 and E2 Pace ratings, Ollie’s Candy’s advantage in the early speed department becomes even more apparent. The daughter of Candy Ride has posted triple-digit numbers in both categories on three occasions this year, including figures of 110 (E1) and 111 (E2) in the Apple Blossom. In contrast, Shedaresthedevil has never posted a triple-digit E1 rating and claims a 100 as her career-best E2 number.
As a result, Shedaresthedevil seems destined to find herself racing off the pace in the Spinster. This might not be a big deal, considering she won the Honeybee by rallying from mid-pack. But the Spinster is a much tougher spot, and it unclear if Shedaresthedevil can reproduce her Kentucky Oaks effort without the benefit of pressing modest fractions. If she does try to secure a forwardly-placed trip in the Spinster, she’ll likely find herself pressing a faster pace than usual, which could be a recipe for regression.
For all these reasons, I’ll side with Ollie’s Candy as the most likely winner of the Spinster. She looms as the “speed of the speed” on paper, but she doesn’t necessarily have to lead if Lady Kate and/or Our Super Freak get aggressive on the front end. With the right journey, Ollie’s Candy can end her close-but-not-quite losing streak and finally secure her first victory of 2020.
An exacta betting Ollie’s Candy over Shedaresthedevil is a logical play for bettors on small budgets. But if you want to seek a more lucrative payday, trifecta tickets adding Lady Kate, #1 Saracosa, and #5 Valiance for second and third place are the way to go.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget: Exacta
$10 exacta: 2 with 3
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $10 exacta, 2 with 3
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget: Trifectas
$5 trifecta: 2 with 3 with 1,5,6 ($15)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $5 trifecta, 2 with 3 with 1,5,6
$5 trifecta: 2 with 1,5,6 with 3 ($15)
What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $5 trifecta, 2 with 1,5,6 with 3
Good luck, and enjoy the race!