SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nine-furlong dirt races on Aug. 9 at Saratoga Race Course have been good to Spinoff.
After winning an allowance on that date last year, he won the $85,000 Alydar by 2 3/4 lengths on Sunday for his first stakes victory in 12 career starts that have included an 18th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a sixth in the Belmont Stakes last year.
Now he’ll chase the big prizes again, perhaps the mile-and-a-quarter Grade I Woodward at Saratoga on closing weekend.
“We’ve placed him ambitiously before, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t give it a try again if he comes out of it well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Breaking from the No. 3 post in a five-horse field with two speed horses to his outside, Spinoff and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. stalked slow-ish early fractions and got the jump on 3-5 betting favorite Endorsed to his inside as they went around the second turn.
Endorsed failed to keep up and had to settle for second.
“It was beautiful. Irad and I spoke in the paddock, ‘What do you think? If the 4 [It’s All Relevant] and 5 [Bodexpress] go, you’ll be laying third,’ and every once in awhile it unfolds like it looks on paper,” Pletcher said.
As a 2-year-old, Spinoff finished third in the one-turn Saratoga Special, then put himself in the Kentucky Derby picture last year with a second to By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby.
He came up empty at Churchill Downs and was close to the lead in the Belmont before fading to sixth behind Sir Winston.
Until the Alydar, his only win since February of his 3-year-old season was the allowance race at Saratoga last Aug. 9.
“He’s a horse we always had high hopes for,” Pletcher said. “He’s shown he has potential.
“He hasn’t disappointed us; we’ve been ambitious with him. Now, hopefully, he can put it all together. The two turns is the key. I don’t think he’s a Saratoga-only horse, but he does like it here.”
TWO JOCKEY SPILLS
Jockeys Tyler Gaffalione and Luis Cardenas were each unseated in races on the card, with Cardenas taking the worst of it and requiring a trip to an area hospital.
While riding Venus Oyzo in the fifth race on the inner turf, his mount scraped the rail heading into the turn while running in the back of the pack.
When Venus Oyzo bounced back to his right, she made contact with Johnnie Merle, ridden by Eric Cancel, and Cardenas fell out of the saddle and rolled on the ground.
Cancel lost his right iron in the incident, but was able to recover to finish third, and an outrider caught the loose Venus Oyzo at the finish line.
Gaffalione was dumped by the 2-year-old filly Frankel At Ascot in the second race when she veered into the rail. After laying motionless for a minute, Gaffalione was able to sit up, then walked off the track and resumed riding the rest of the card.
Frankel At Ascot was caught on the backstretch.
ART COLLECTOR ROLLS
A day after Tiz the Law reinforced his standing as the top 3-year-old in North America by winning the Travers, Art Collector reinforced his standing as one of his top challengers.
Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. and sent off at odds of 2-5, Art Collector rolled to a 3 1/4-length victory in the Ellis Park Derby, easily fending off Attachment Rate in the stretch.
That victory added 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby and moved Art Collector from fifth to third in the standings behind Tiz the Law and Authentic.
Art Collector is 4-for-4 in 2020, with two allowance wins and a 3 1/2-length win over the filly Swiss Skydiver in the Grade II Blue Grass on July 11.
“This is huge. We’re going into the Derby now with a legitimate horse,” Hernandez said. “Like we said after the Blue Grass, he’s proven he’s getting better and better with each race. He showed it again today. He put everyone away. He did it all on his own and ran away from there.”