By Eric Mitchell
Two talented fillies by leading sire Tapit — Pretty City Dancer and Sweet Loretta —hooked up in midstretch in the $350,000, Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course and battled to a dead heat.
The co-winners were the only two stakes winners in the seven-horse field. Both earned an automatic starting spot in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies via the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series.
Sweet Loretta came into the race off a 4 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes, while Pretty City Dancer’s last race produced a 3 1/4-length victory in the Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs. Sweet Loretta is trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by Javier Castellano, while Pretty City Dancer is trained by Mark Casse and was ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Runaway Doll, who last won by 13 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track, hooked up with Cherry Lodge early and together they led the field through opening fractions of :22.89 and :45.81 through a half-mile.
Coming out of the turn, Sweet Loretta, who had been stalking in third, passed the pacesetters, while Pretty City Dancer rallied wide on the outside. Running with her head cocked to the outside kept Pretty City Dancer just back of Sweet Loretta until a few strides from the finish line, when she straightened out and drove to the dead heat.
Cherry Lodge finished 5 3/4 lengths back in third.
There was some bumping between the co-winners in the stretch, which resulted in a steward’s inquiry, but no action was taken.
“She drifted just a little bit and the other filly [Pretty City Dancer] came over and brushed up a little bit right on the wire,” Castellano said. “I knew it wasn’t going to affect anything, but I was very lucky to hold onto the dead heat. She is a nice filly and she will move forward.”
Casse said he thought Pretty City Dancer would win it and then she “laid in” midstretch.
“I never really saw the head-on, but I thought we won and then I thought we got beat,” he said. “Then I met up with Todd, and he said, ‘Will you take a dead-heat?’ and I said, ‘I’ll take a dead heat.’ So, that’s what we got."
Pletcher said the race reminded him of one from previous day.
“We had a filly in with [one of trainer] Mark Casse’s, and they exchanged bumps pretty good,” he said. “I figured if they didn’t change that one, they’re not going to change this one, especially with a dead heat. It was a big effort from both fillies.”
Pletcher, who also trained Cherry Lodge for Gainesway, said the filly fought jockey John Velazquez a bit and just got tired at the end.
“She kind of spread-eagled at the start and got up and got a little headstrong. I think [experience] is key. Today, the two most seasoned horses were one-two. You kind of saw that trend throughout the day. There’s no substitute for experience.”
Sweet Loretta paid $4.90, $4.60, and $2.80. Pretty City Dancer paid $5.60, $5.10, and $2.90. Even-money favorite Cherry Lodge finished third and paid $2.10.
Sweet Loretta is owned by Vincent and Teresa Viola’s St. Elias Stable. The filly sold for $750,000 to Roma Farm at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Ashview Farm, which bred Sweet Loretta in partnership with Colts Neck Stables, consigned her to the sale.
Pretty City Dancer was bred by Gainesway, where Tapit stands. Gainesway sold the filly for $825,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale to owner John Oxley.