The battle-hardened class of Brightwork prevailed over the flashy potential of Ways and Means in Sunday’s $300,000 Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga, extending her record to a perfect 4-for-4.
The first Grade 1 winner for WSS Racing and trainer John Ortiz, Brightwork was building upon victories in the Debutante S. and Adirondack (G3). She also continued her pattern of outperforming market expectations by beating a hot favorite.
Ways and Means was hammered into 0.45-1 favoritism off a sensational debut, but her backers had cause for concern from the start. The Chad Brown pupil did not break cleanly and found herself near the back. Her displeasure in traffic was evident as her head was cocked, and jockey Flavien Prat had his hands full. Worse, Ways and Means ran up too closely behind Brightwork when trying to alter course to her outside, and she clipped the winner’s heels before righting herself.
Meanwhile, Brightwork had put herself in much better position for Irad Ortiz Jr. The 3-1 second choice stalked the contested pace on the outside. Early leader Sugar Hi was marginally ahead of the pressing Lemorian through fractions of :22.40 and :45.09, and shrugged off her pace rival on the far turn. But a looming Brightwork was about to overtake Sugar Hi in turn.
Ways and Means was also ranging into contention on Brightwork’s flank. Although the favorite briefly appeared ready to overcome her early troubles, Brightwork established enough of a cushion and simply would not let her pass. Ways and Means had her ears pinned in pursuit, yet Brightwork had her measure all the way to the wire. The half-length winner completed seven furlongs in 1:23.17.
Irad Ortiz explained how his pre-race strategy panned out, based on Brightwork’s draw between Ways and Means (post 7) and Lemorian (post 9):
“The horse beside me (Lemorian), last time she broke from the one-hole at Indiana, but she outbreak everybody, and I know she’s going to be quick. So, I say, maybe I let her go and stalk there and maybe I can bide my time, and I know the horse I have to beat is the horse inside of me (Ways and Means). That’s what I tried to do, and it worked out perfect.
“Johnny (Ortiz) let me ride her and told me, ‘do what you want to do – you know the filly, you’ve been working her.’ I let her go, I sit. It was an honest pace. We wasn’t walking, but I know my filly probably handled the distance, and she has three races already, and the other filly (Ways and Means) has only one race, so let’s try to take advantage of that, and it worked out good.
“By the quarter-pole, I feel somebody. I just tried to go and open up. I can’t for a second, but my filly put her ears up. Turning for home, I know there’s something there, so I hit her a couple times and she was responding. I don’t know if somebody (else) was going to get there, but she was giving me everything.”
John Ortiz was basking in his new career milestone.
“Tears, happiness, joy. I’m ecstatic and proud,” her trainer said. “These are all the emotions I can think of right now. I thank my Dad and thank God. My family has supported me. My uncles are here, my cousins are here. Jared (Hughes, bloodstock agent) is like my older brother, (owner) Bill Simon and his family. This is such a big deal. We’re like one big, giant family and I couldn’t be more blessed right now.”
The Ways and Means camp rued how the race unfolded for her.
“She was getting out bad,” Prat said, “and as soon as that horse outside of me (Brightwork) cleared, I mean as soon as he went in front of me, she just ducked out and I clipped heels. It’s just she was trying to get away from the inside.
“On the backside, as long as I was in between horses, she was really uncomfortable and then she ducked out. I clipped heels, but even after that she was still looking at those horses inside of us. Turning for home, she made a good run and just got beat.”
Brown paid tribute to Brightwork’s tenacity while wondering what might have been for Ways and Means.
“She had some trouble down the backside,” Brown said. “It looked like she steadied out of a tight spot there that cost her some position, and probably cost her late. Once she steadied and fell out of there, it put her at a big disadvantage. Hats off to the winner, she really ran a brave race and ran really strong. I wish we didn’t have that trouble, or I think it would have been a close horse race.”
The top two pulled well clear of the rest. Wonder Ride reported home third, another 6 1/4 lengths back. Alys Beach, who had been far back in last, rallied for fourth. Closing Act, Sugar Hi, Lady Moscato, and the tailed-off Lemorian rounded out the order of finish. Miz Sense was declared a non-starter after acting up just as the latch sprang and dislodging her rider. Becky’s Joker was withdrawn earlier.
By the Uncle Mo stallion Outwork, who also sired 2022 Spinaway heroine Leave No Trace, Brightwork has bankrolled $444,051. The bay has passed class and distance tests in methodical fashion. In her 4 1/2-furlong debut at Keeneland, she beat future turf star Crimson Advocate, the winner of the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot. Brightwork next staved off V V’s Dream in the six-furlong Debutante, and dominated the Adirondack at the Spa last time out.
Brightwork was bred by Wynnstay Inc. and H. Allen Poindexter in Kentucky. The $95,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November weanling is out of the Malibu Moon mare Clarendon Fancy, who is a full sister to the outstanding producer Catch the Moon – the dam of four graded winners including millionaires Girvin and Midnight Bourbon.
Brightwork’s pedigree sports a cross similar to Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1) hero Arabian Knight, an Uncle Mo colt out of an A.P. Indy-line mare. A West Coast swing is in her future, with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita her long-standing goal.
“We have some options,” John Ortiz said. “We could either go to the Alcibiades ([G1] Oct. 6 at Keeneland), the race in California (the Chandelier [G2] on Oct. 7 at Santa Anita), or just go straight to the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll let her dictate where she wants to go. You have to think about shipping to California, and she has to acclimate to it. It’s a difficult trip to California but it’s been done before and this is where we’re going.
“Training is training at the end of the day. If you got talent, you got talent, and the filly has the talent. She’s making me look good right now. She’s the athlete, I’m the coach. I gave her some words of encouragement earlier today, we said a little prayer together, and we’re here right now. We’re just enjoying the ride. They’ve got their own personalities, and I just go with it.”