Spelling Again Could Target Groupie Doll Stakes at Ellis Park

Spelling Again Could Target Groupie Doll Stakes at Ellis Park

Spelling Again winning the Princess Rooney Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park – Coglianese Photography

Ellis Park Press Release: After her gutsy victory Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s $250,000 Princess Rooney, Seajay Racing’s 5-year-old mare Spelling Again will be under strong consideration for Ellis Park’s Aug. 6 Groupie Doll Stakes.

Brad Cox, who trains Spelling Again, won last year’s Groupie Doll with Call Pat, a $7,500 yearling purchase in 2011 who this year captured Oaklawn Park’s Grade 3 Bayakoa and Grade 2 Azeri Stakes.

By winning the Grade 2 Princess Rooney, Spelling Again earned a fees-paid shot at the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, along with a $10,000 travel stipend. And the $100,000 Groupie Doll at a mile has been a proven route to the winner’s circle for the seven-furlong Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

“The timing is good, and I think she’d like that racetrack,” said the Churchill Downs-based Cox, who won three stakes Saturday, including a pair at Evangeline Downs. “Ellis is a good racetrack and most horses get over it really well.”

Groupie Doll, the two-time Breeders’ Cup winner and champion female sprinter for whom the Grade 3 stakes is named, ran in the 2013 running of Ellis’ marquee stakes when it was known as the Gardenia. Coming in off a layoff, Groupie Doll got beat at Ellis Park, but she got the conditioning she needed to move forward to what proved her second straight victory in the Filly & Mare Sprint.

“You take it race by race,” Cox, who expects to have 15-20 horses stabled at Ellis in a couple of weeks, said of the Breeders’ Cup. “But being 5 years old, you look at Wavell Avenue, she won the race last year and got good at the right time. That’s really what it’s all about, this mare getting good at the right time. If she’s good and doing great, we’ll take a shot at Santa Anita.”

Spelling Again was much closer to the early pace in the Princess Rooney than she had been in her prior race at Churchill Downs, when she closed strongly to finish three-quarters of a length behind dead-heat winners Diva Express and I’m A Looker in the Grade 3 Winning Colors. Ridden by Luis Saez, Spelling Again made the lead sooner than anticipated, then held off Gulfstream-based Cali Star by a neck while finishing seven furlongs in 1:22. That earned her a career-best 102 BRIS speed figure.

“It can be a little speed-biased down there,” Cox said. “We wanted to get her up and get her in the game, and Luis did a great job. The horse outside us made a little bit of a premature move, I thought, and Luis had to ask her for pretty much a full drive before they turned for home. He did a great job recognizing that horse coming up on the outside and had just enough to hold off Cali Star.”

Spelling Again has won four races — with three wins, including Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Chilukki last fall, and three seconds in stakes — since being claimed for $50,000 at Santa Anita in April, 2015, after which she was sent East to Cox.

Cox won the Louisiana Legends Day’s $100,000 Soiree with Believe in Bertie and $100,000 Cheval with Exit Credit, both owned by Richard and Bert Klein of Louisville. The trainer also won three stakes in one day earlier this year, coincidentally also with one at Gulfstream and two in Louisiana.

Elsewhere Saturday, Cox was second in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Salvator Mile with Allied Air Raid. With his other starters, he had a second at Ellis and a fourth and fifth at Churchill, with Cox staying in Louisville.

“I like to treat my office as my war room,” he said, with a laugh, of having horses running at multiple tracks. “I feel like I’m in a draft room in the NFL. You’re trying to coordinate everything out of your office.”

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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 Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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