Sunday’s $200,000 Adirondack (G3) shaped up as a competitive affair with several promising juvenile fillies, but WSS Racing’s Brightwork turned in a dominating performance at Saratoga. Employing stalking tactics for new rider Irad Ortiz Jr., the John Ortiz pupil stormed five lengths clear and advanced her resume to 3-for-3.
Although Brightwork was a Keeneland debut winner coming off a score in the Debutante S. at Ellis Park, she went off as the 5.10-1 fourth choice at the Spa. Bettors preferred a couple of flashy Ellis maiden winners, 2.70-1 favorite Here U Come Again and the 4.40-1 Copper Em, along with Schuylerville (G3) heroine Becky’s Joker at 2.90-1.
Brightwork proved the market wrong, fulfilled her connections’ well-designed plan, and stamped herself as a prime contender for the marquee divisional events leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.
When Here U Come Again and fellow Ellis winner Streaming Now sped forward, Brightwork was content to draft right behind them in the stalking flight. Here U Come Again had a half-length edge on Streaming Now through fractions of :22.01 and :45.33, and the favorite drew away from her pace companion cornering for home.
But Brightwork was just about to be unleashed, and her response was emphatic. Taking off after Here U Come Again, the Outwork filly rapidly passed her and opened up to finish 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.85.
Here U Come Again was in turn 3 3/4 lengths clear of Streaming Now, in a clean sweep of the trifecta for Ellis runners. Magic Cross ran evenly in fourth, followed by Princess Indy, Princesa Celina, a flat Becky’s Joker, and Copper Em. Saratoga Secret and Cara’s Time were scratched.
Becky’s Joker’s trainer, Gary Contessa, was wondering if perhaps there were a physical reason for her no-show.
“She didn’t fire. He (jockey Javier Castellano) said she was acting really squirrely in the gate, like maybe she’s in heat,” Contessa reported. “We’ll take a look to see if it was something physical or maybe she was in heat.”
Irad Ortiz, who was cleared to ride after going down in a spill earlier on the card, revealed his pre-race instructions from Brightwork’s trainer.
“(John Ortiz) told me in the paddock that he was pretty convinced she was ‘going to run a good race, so ride her with confidence. Do whatever you want to do, and you know how to ride, just don’t be in a speed duel early. Save something for the end.’”
Irad rode to order.
“She broke so good,” the jockey noted, in a contrasting opinion from the chart that described her as bobbling. “The outside horse, Paulo Lobo’s filly (Streaming Now), went and the horse inside, Brad Cox’s filly (Here U Come Again), she had speed, too. They went ahead of me, and I sat right behind them, and my filly relaxed. I waited for my time to go and tip her out in the stretch. No one was close to me. I tipped her out and she was ready. She responded. She deserves all the credit.”
Brightwork, who increased her earnings to $279,051, has achieved something noteworthy in every start. The third-placer in her Keeneland maiden, Crimson Advocate, has since become famous for winning the Queen Mary (G2) at Royal Ascot. Next time in the Debutante, Brightwork upstaged hot favorite V V’s Dream.
“After she broke her maiden at Keeneland, we were very confident,” Ortiz said. “We already targeted this race specifically. Working backwards from there, we knew the Debutante at Churchill Downs (transferred to Ellis) was going to be our second spot, so we gave her about 60 days in between races….
“So, we played the waiting game. Bill Simon (of WSS Racing) has been very patient. He’s a big supporter of the barn and obviously it means a lot to come up here for him with his horses. The sky is the limit with this filly.”
Simon commented on why he chose John Ortiz as his trainer.
“The guys who keep getting (good) horses are wonderful trainers; we know they are. We could put our horses with them, but I think this sport needs good encouragement for good, young people if we want to sustain it,” Simon observed. “Johnny is an incredibly intuitive horseman, a wonderful family guy, and we’re so excited about the opportunity to help and encourage them and give them support where we can.
“I talked to Johnny yesterday and said, ‘Johnny I’m nervous, there’s some good horses in here.’ He goes, ‘Bill, when you play poker, you don’t know what the other guy’s got, but you know what you got and I know what we got.’”
“She blows me away every time,” John Ortiz said of Brightwork. “Not only in the mornings, but in the afternoons. It magnifies what I see in the mornings. She comes out of every race with such class.”
The horseman has consistently believed that Brightwork will thrive over a route. In the meantime, he confirmed that the Sept. 3 Spinaway (G1), going seven furlongs at the Spa, is on her agenda.
“Eventually, we’re going to try her two turns, but we’re going to head to the next spot here in Saratoga. I’m feeling confident for that race right now.”
The Spinaway could offer a showdown with Sunday’s spectacular debut winner, Ways and Means. A Klaravich Stables homebred trained by Chad Brown, Ways and Means crushed a six-furlong maiden by 12 3/4 lengths in 1:10.51. Ways and Means, by Practical Joke, is a three-quarter sister to Highly Motivated and a half-sister to recent Lake George (G3) queen Surge Capacity.
Brightwork’s main target is naturally the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
“We’re looking for that purple saddle towel,” John Ortiz said.
Bred by Wynnstay Inc. and H. Allen Poindexter in Kentucky, Brightwork sold for $95,000 as a weanling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November. The bay is out of the Malibu Moon mare Clarendon Fancy, who is herself a full sister to Catch the Moon, the dam of Girvin, Cocked and Loaded, Pirate’s Punch, and Midnight Bourbon.