With the 2017 Triple Crown season in the rearview mirror, the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” season is gearing up. While “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races for this year’s event have been taking place since January, the U.S. races are now coming fast and furious the closer we get to autumn.
In this week’s Getting to Know feature, we focus on Lady Ivanka, winner of the Grade 1, $350,000 Spinaway Stakes on Sept. 2 at Saratoga Race Course and a guaranteed spot in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Lady Ivanka improved to 2-for-2 with a three-quarter-length win in the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes on Saturday for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and the ownership group of Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, Michael Imperio, and Susan Montanye.
Lady Ivanka was an $80,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale in May from the consignment of Montanye’s SBM Training and Sales. She drilled a quarter-mile in 21 2/5 seconds during the under-tack show for the sale, which was the co-fastest at the distance.
She rolled to a dominant debut victory at Saratoga on Aug. 9 in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race. The bay filly rated a few lengths off the pace but clearly was naturally faster than most of the field. She swept up to challenge pacesetter and 6-5 favorite Everybody Loves Me entering the stretch and simply outclassed that rival en route to an eight-length runaway victory.
“She showed us a lot of talent from the beginning,” Rodriguez said of Lady Ivanka. “My brother Gus trained her at Belmont [Park] and the first time we ran her, he was excited. It’s a lot easier to keep it quiet and let the horse do it, because if you’re expecting a lot and they don’t get results, then everything falls apart for the owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, hot walkers; it’s tough. So, we tried to take it as it comes.”
Lady Ivanka earned an 89 Equibase Speed Figure for her debut, a visually impressive performance that gave her connections the confidence to test her in a Grade 1 race.
In the Spinaway, Lady Ivanka was again close to a swift pace, rating two lengths behind dueling Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes winner Pure Silver and 3-5 favorite Separationofpowers through an opening half-mile in :45.30. She overcame a very wide trip to take command in the stretch and held off a late bid from Maya Malibu to win in 1:24.97 for seven-eighths of a mile.
“She was coming up to the race very, very good,” Rodriguez said on Sept. 3. “ She came up tired after, but you expect that. They went fast in front. When she made a big run, we were close enough to get it. We’re very proud of her.”
Lady Ivanka ran the final eighth of a mile in 14.14 seconds, which supports Rodriguez’s comment that she was getting tired late. She earned a 78 Equibase Speed Figure, a nine-point drop when stretching out an extra three-sixteenths of a mile. She will need to improve significantly to be a serious contender for the Juvenile Fillies. The winner has run between a 92 and a 116 speed figure in that race over the last 15 years, with an average of 102.3 and a median of 104.
Rodriguez said Lady Ivanka will ship back to Belmont Park and is under consideration for the Grade 1, $400,000 Frizette Stakes on Oct. 8.
“She ate everything last night. Everything went perfect,” Rodriguez said the day after the Spinaway. “We’ll talk to the owners in the next couple of days. If she bounces back, I don’t see why not. You have to run when they want to run.”
Lady Ivanka has elite speed and she showed in the Spinaway she can carry it seven-eighths of a mile. The big question is: can she carry her speed 1 1/16 miles – another three-sixteenths of a mile – on Nov. 4 in the Juvenile Fillies?
If she goes to the one-mile Frizette (held around one turn at Belmont), that race will provide key additional information. Until that race, or if her connections elect to bypass the prep race and go right to the Juvenile Fillies, we can only speculate based upon her pedigree.
Lady Ivanka is from the eighth crop of Tiz Wonderful, who won graded stakes as a 2-year-old at one mile and 1 1/16 miles. His other U.S. Grade 1 winner was 2014 Spinaway winner Condo Commando and his top earner to date, Wonder Gal, was a stakes winner around two turns.
By two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, Tiz Wonderful has sired 30 stakes winners among 273 winners from 394 starters through Sept. 4 with an average winning distance of less than seven-eighths of a mile.
Lady Ivanka’s dam (mother), Lady Leftennant, by Officer, was winless in four starts, all in three-quarter-mile sprints, but produced four stakes winners. Lady Leftennant is a half-sister (same dam, different sire) to blazing-fast sprinter Jet West, a multiple stakes winner who ran third in the 2006 Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen, as well as multiple stakes-winning sprinters Jetinto Houston and Triumphant Flight. The fourth stakes winner was Jetin Excess, who ran second by a neck in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes in 2000 and was a stakes winner at seven-eighths of a mile.
Lady Ivanka’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Jetinwith Kennedy, won a pair of stakes sprinting and her third dam (maternal great-great grandmother), Blue Jet Set, earned her only career win at three-quarters of a mile.
Since the bottom half of this pedigree is almost entirely speed, Lady Ivanka will need to get all of her stamina from her sire. On paper, it sure looks like she might be better suited to sprint races.