Keeler Johnson Handicaps the Spinaway Stakes

Keeler Johnson Handicaps the Spinaway Stakes

Photo by Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

The 2016 Saratoga race meet comes to a conclusion this weekend, and as usual, some of the best races have been saved for last. The feature race of the meet for two-year-old fillies is the $350,000 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I), scheduled to be run on Saturday, and the seven-furlong race has drawn a quality field of seven young fillies with the goal of winning a prestigious grade I race.

Todd Pletcher always does well with two-year-olds at Saratoga, and he’ll send out the two morning line favorites in the Spinaway, those being Cherry Lodge (2-1) and Sweet Loretta (5-2). The latter filly is unbeaten in two starts, including an easy 4 1/4-length win in the Schuylerville Stakes (gr. III) earlier in the Saratoga meet, but she got a fantastic pace setup in that race by closing into very fast fractions.

In contrast, Cherry Lodge broke her maiden at Saratoga the hard way, leading all the way through fast fractions of :21.97 and :45.13 to win by a length while sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs on August 7th. A daughter of Bernardini that sold for $450,000 as a yearling, Cherry Lodge has the look of a promising filly with a lot of potential, and she’s drawn very well in post position five. In a race without a ton of speed on paper, Cherry Lodge should be able to work out a great trip setting or stalking a respectable pace, and from there, I think she’ll kick clear to win.

Sweet Loretta should have big chance to rally and complete a Pletcher exacta, but Pretty City Dancer (7-2) is another to consider. Trained by Mark Casse, this daughter of Tapit finished third in her debut before posting two straight wins at Churchill Downs, including a late-running 3 1/4-length romp in the Debutante Stakes. Like Sweet Loretta, Pretty City Dancer benefited from a fast pace and might not get as good a setup in the Spinaway, but she’s also shown the ability to make a move during the second quarter-mile, which could help get her into good position turning for home.

Runway Doll (3-1) won her debut by an eye-catching 13 lengths going six furlongs at Saratoga last month, but that was over a sloppy, sealed track that might have been favorable to speed, and this might be the day to play against Runway Doll at a relatively short price.

For the purpose of multi-race wagers like the Pick 4, I would seriously consider singling Cherry Lodge, as I think this race should suit her running style perfectly and set her up for an impressive performance.

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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