On paper, Gainesway Stable’s homebred Spendarella was the one to beat in Saturday’s $304,000 Del Mar Oaks (G1). On the Del Mar turf itself, her class edge was only magnified, as the 6-5 favorite romped in extravagant fashion.
Last seen finishing a hard-trying second to European celebrity Inspiral in Royal Ascot’s Coronation S. (G1), Spendarella had previously been unbeaten stateside. The new variables here were the 1 1/8-mile distance, and the potential of chasing a fast pace out wide from post 10, but the Graham Motion filly contemptuously brushed aside any theory of vulnerability.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was able to place Spendarella in a perfect spot early, settled in third behind dueling leaders Gracelund Gray and Cairo Memories. The daughter of Karakontie wasn’t close enough to compromise her late kick, but still in position to get a jump on the closers.
Gracelund Gray had her head in front through splits of :23.82 and :47.05 on the firm course. Cairo Memories put her away after six furlongs in 1:10.71, only to find the favorite poised to strike.
Spendarella ominously loomed up on the far turn, and left no suspense about how the stretch run would unfold. The lone question was how far. She didn’t skimp on the margin, but ran up the total to 4 1/2 lengths in 1:47.09.
Bellabel, the 3.70-1 second choice, rallied as best of the rest. The 4.60-1 Cairo Memories held third by a neck to conclude the formful trifecta. The 43-1 Tezzaray saved fourth from the closing Ballet Dancing, followed by Lucky Girl, Lady Clementine, Sixteen Arches, Island of Love, Txope, Gold Dragon Queen, Lady T, and Gracelund Gray. Rhea Moon, the outsider of Phil D’Amato’s quartet (including Bellabel, Sixteen Arches, and Island of Love), was scratched in favor of Sunday’s 10th race.
“I had a terrific trip,” Gaffalione recapped. “She broke alertly and we took up a good spot behind the speed. When we cleared the chute, she dropped the bit and relaxed. She’s special. I have to give Graham and his team all the credit. I’m just happy I got to ride her. I don’t get to ride too many like her.”
Motion’s assistant, Alice Clapham, knew that Spendarella was working out a great trip.
“When he got the nice spot coming in the bend and she relaxed it was like, if she’s good enough, she’s going to win,” Clapham summed up. “And then when she kicked for home and left them, that was pretty incredible.”
Spendarella’s first Grade 1 laurel improved her resume to 5-4-1-0, $595,896. The bay first burst onto the scene at Gulfstream Park this winter, with a sharp debut on Feb. 2 and wire job in the Herecomesthebride (G3). Spendarella made it a hat trick in the Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland, her springboard to Royal Ascot.
The New York-bred was listed as sold to Ballyfair Bloodstock for $220,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. A full sister to Grade 2-placed multiple stakes scorer Spanish Loveaffair, Spendarella is also a half-sister to 2015 American Oaks (G1) heroine Spanish Queen (by Tribal Rule). Their dam, the Unusual Heat mare Spanish Bunny, hails from the further family of champion Bates Motel.