Five Key Takeaways from Woodward Stakes Day 2018

Sippican Harbor (#6, pink jockey cap) scored a 16-1 upset in Saturday’s Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga and earned a starting spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets Day on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course:

Good Fortune: A soaking rain might have been the best thing to ever happen to Sippican Harbor, who won the Grade 1 $350,000 Spinaway Stakes and gained an expense-paid automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trainer Gary Contessa was convinced the Orb filly belonged on turf, and she finished fifth on that surface at Saratoga when she made her first career start on July 22. When Contessa  brought her back in a race that came off the turf on Aug. 12 and was run at seven furlongs, she demolished the field by 17 lengths on what turned into a fast track. That earned her a shot in the Spinaway, where she got up to win by two lengths. “I really thought she was a turf horse. Shows you what I know,” Contessa joked. “A blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.”

Chad Brown at the Spa. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Record Results: Chad Brown set the meet record for victories by one trainer with 40 wins two years ago, only to have rival Todd Pletcher match that total last summer. Brown responded by running away with the crown this year, including a record 41st win with Spirit Animal in the sixth race on Saturday (he earned two more later in the day). “It was a goal, whether it happened this season or another season, to hold that record for most wins,” Brown said. “In this game, you’re really judged by winning. It’s been a magical meet for us.”

Juvenile Success: It is hard to outdo Pletcher when it comes to achieving early results with 2-year-olds. But the ability to do that provided one of the keys to Brown’s meet-long success. As of Saturday, his 2-year-olds were winning at a 23 percent clip through 31 starts to Pletcher’s 15 percent with 40 starters. “We’re just trying to learn every year when we exit this meet how we can do better,” Brown said. “The 2-year-olds are really key to this meet. If you can get some of them ready to win some 2-year-old races, you’re most likely going to have a good meet.”

Mike Smith (Eclipse Sportswire)

Fight Another Day: Fans would do well not to give up on Chasing Yesterday, even after the half-sister to American Pharoah finished a well-beaten seventh as the favorite in the Spinaway. Chasing Yesterday was coming off an authoritative 4 ¼-length victory in her July 28 debut at Del Mar for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, but she endured a rough start in the Spinaway and never recovered. “We took a whole lot of dirt,” said jockey Mike Smith.  “And, as you can see, she just isn’t used to it. You hate to come all the way here to school, but it certainly was a really good schooling race.”

One to Watch: Veteran trainer Barclay Tagg made two great moves when it comes to Cassies Dreamer, a 2-year-old Flatter filly. First, the trainer who is not often involved in the claiming game claimed her for $50,000 from Loooch Racing Stables and trainer Anthony Quartarolo when she made a successful debut on Aug. 3 at Saratoga. Then Tagg thought so highly of his new acquisition that he started her in the Grade 1 Spinaway. She justified the faith he showed in her for the second time when she rallied to be third with Junior Alvarado aboard.

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