Although a maiden after just missing in her Parx debut, Vequist had the look of a smart enough prospect for Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable to buy into the Swilcan Stable homebred. The new partners made a shrewd investment, for the Butch Reid trainee ran away with Sunday’s $250,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1) in outstanding time at Saratoga.
The result was a coup for freshman sire Nyquist. The 2015 champion juvenile colt and 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero has a budding star in the winner, and he was also responsible for the Spinaway third Lady Lilly.
The 6-1 Vequist lunged at the start and found herself at the back of the compact field in the initial strides, but soon recovered to attend the pace. As Esplanande reeled off an opening quarter in :22.41, Vequist was perched in second, flanked by even-money favorite Beautiful Memories.
By the time Esplanande reached the half in :44.87, Vequist still shadowed her, but Beautiful Memories had dropped out. Reminiscent of her pulling up in the Schuylerville (G3), Beautiful Memories was eased and finished a long-way last.
Meanwhile, Vequist was turning the Spinaway into a rout. Under Luis Saez, the bay tackled Esplanande at the top of the lane and streaked four lengths clear by midstretch. The margin more than doubled at the wire, with Vequist recording a 9 1/2-length triumph. She finished the historic 7-furlong feature in 1:22.29, an eyelash off Hot Dixie Chick’s stakes record of 1:22.28 from 2009.
Esplanande held second to become the latest Grade 1 performer for Daredevil, fresh off his exacta in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with Shedaresthedevil and Swiss Skydiver. Lady Lilly kept on for third, 11 1/4 lengths ahead of Irish Constitution. Guana Cay, the 7-2 second choice, was a non-threatening fifth, beating only the tailed-off Beautiful Memories.
“The plan today was to try and follow the speed,” Saez said. “There was a lot of speed in the race, so I wanted to break from there and find a good spot. Everything went so well, we broke, and we were right there. When we got to the three-eighths I had a lot of horse and when we came to the stretch she took off.”
Vequist paid $15.20 while increasing her earnings to $145,500. The 5-2 favorite in her unveiling in a 4 1/2-furlong dash at Parx July 29, she came up a nose shy of the Not This Time filly Niente in :51.64, and the pair drew far away from the rest.
Reid explained to NYRA publicity that Vequist was always going to improve with distance, and a workout gave connections reason to try the Spinaway.
“It was more about the morning training than it was her first race,” Reid said. “We breezed her out of the gate one time and she was only supposed to go a half-mile but she went in :48 and just kept going 1:01, 1:13, and 1:26. Even though we ran her in that 4 1/2-furlong race, it was more just getting a race under her belt. She was going to be looking for longer things down the road. You don’t expect to win a Grade 1 with a maiden, but I knew the distance wasn’t a problem.”
That fits her pedigree too. The Kentucky-bred is out of the Mineshaft mare Vero Amore, who was runner-up by a neck to Stopchargingmaria in the 2014 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for Swilcan Stables and Reid.
The ensuing $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) did witness a stakes record as Come Dancing returned to her best in a sparkling 1:08.74 for 6 furlongs. Trained by Carlos Martin and ridden by Irad Ortiz, the 1.35-1 favorite broke alertly but let the speedball Lady’s Island blaze ahead through fractions of :21.64 and :43.81.
When Lady’s Island drifted out turning into the stretch, the stalking Blamed took the opportunity to launch her rally on the rail. That left a gap for Come Dancing, and the Grade 1-winning millionaire plowed right through to join the fray. In the process, she tightened up Blamed briefly before surging past Lady’s Island by three-quarters of a length.
Blamed faded to third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Lady’s Island. Next came Unholy Alliance, Pink Sands, Bye Bye J, and Pacific Gale.
A homebred for Blue Devil Racing Stable, Come Dancing was an Eclipse Award finalist in the female sprinter division last season. The Malibu Moon mare captured the 2019 Ballerina (G1), Ruffian (G2), Distaff H. (G3), and Gallant Bloom H. (G2), but her championship hopes dissolved with a subpar sixth behind Covfefe in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
The 6-year-old had yet to regain the winning thread this term. Trying two turns in an ambitious comeback in the Apr. 18 Apple Blossom (G1), when sojourning with D. Wayne Lukas at Oaklawn, Come Dancing faded to 12th. She fared better when returning to sprints for Martin, but her second in the June 27 Vagrancy H. (G3) and fourth as the defending champ in the Aug. 8 Ballerina weren’t up to her former standard.
Ortiz and Martin believed she still had it in her.
“I’m happy to be back on her today,” Ortiz said. “I haven’t ridden her in a long time (since fall 2018), but she’s as good as she’s ever been. Hopefully, she stays sound and healthy.
“I thought I had the best filly, so I tried to stay close and not give them a chance to steal the race. She broke well today. Last time she missed the break and today she broke good and sat a little closer and I think that was the key.”
“I was happy to see that Irad was able to get her to break and settle,” Martin said, “and he had her in the clear when he made his move. The track has been very fast, but I just wanted to see the old Come Dancing give us a run like the champion that she is. It’s very gratifying that Marc (Holliday of Blue Devil Racing Stable) brought her back. A lot of naysayers were saying she lost a step but hopefully she can come back and finish the year strong and we can be vindicated. I’m so happy for Come Dancing, she’s a special horse for us.”
Come Dancing sports a mark of 18-9-3-0, $1,186,783. Her first stakes score came in the 2018 Royal Delta, and she was just edged by Marley’s Freedom in that fall’s Go for Wand H. (G3). Her stakes placing last year was full of merit, as she was runner-up in champion Midnight Bisou’s stakes-record Ogden Phipps (G1).
The Kentucky-bred is out of the Grade 2-winning Tiznow mare Tizahit, from the extended family of champion Folklore, current Japanese Triple Crown threat Contrail, and Saturday’s smashing Derby Day debut winner, Essential Quality.
Rounding out the Sunday stakes action at the Spa, RB Racing’s Battle Station overran his foes in the $85,000 Lucky Coin Stakes at odds of 20-1. The Rob Atras charge rolled past Pulsate and Readyforprimetime to finish 5 1/2 firm-turf furlongs in 1:01.79 with Kendrick Carmouche. Shekky Shebaz, the defending champion and 1.75-1 favorite, trailed.