SARATOGA SPRINGS – Trainer Phil Serpe had a good feeling about his 2-year-old filly, Leave No Trace, coming into Sunday’s Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga Race Course, even if the betting public wasn’t so thrilled.
She was bigger than she had been in the spring, she was coming off a nice win at Saratoga in her career debut and she was training very well.
Leaving no trace of vulnerability, Serpe also wore his green tie with the rhinos on it.
“I’ve had this tie forever, and my partner in crime, Lisa Bartkowski, loves it, so I wore it today for good luck,” Serpe said with a laugh.
Everything worked the way it was supposed to, as Leave No Trace charged past Kaling and held off Wonder Wheel to win by a length and a half.
It’s been seemingly forever since the veteran Serpe had won a Grade I, but he got one for the first time in 29 years, going back to Birdonthewire’s 1993 Vosburgh at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Leave No Trace got into close stalking position behind Kaling early and gradually built a short lead inside the eighth pole and won without a threat from the hard-charging Wonder Wheel. Kaling held for third by a half-length.
Leave No Trace was 8-1 on the morning line and went off at 14-1.
“There’s some horses in here who have run a couple times, some horses like her who only ran one time,” Serpe said. “You’ve got to take a shot. That’s what racing is. That’s what this whole thing’s about.
“We thought, coming out of the gate, she might be laying third or fourth, just let her finish up, but she broke really sharp, and what are you going to say? That’s Lezcano’s job.”
Leave No Trace won her debut by 2 3-4 lengths on July 20 and made a big jump into the Spinaway, where faced nine rivals, three of whom were already stakes winners.
But they were all lightly raced, outside of the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Naughty Gal, who won the Grade III Adirondack on Aug. 7 in her third career start, and Sabra Tuff, who was second in the Debutante and third in the Adirondack.
“Really, her first race was impressive,” Serpe said. “I don’t swear by Beyer [speed] numbers and [Ragozin] sheet numbers, but I do use them as a tool. Her numbers were good, she’s training great, she worked 59 [seconds] and change for fun … you’ve got to go. You’ve got to make hay when the sun is shining, as they say.
“I think it’s an awakening for a lot of people. A couple horses came back and won races, but most of them were like we were. We’ll see if we fit today, and we fit, I guess.”
Serpe said Leave No Trace’s first victory was atypical of what he usually gets out of his juveniles.
But the daughter of Outwork also had shown signs that she might be well suited to take a swing at the Spinaway.
“We really don’t wind our 2-year-olds up as first-time starters, at all,” he said. “We have them fit and ready to run. When she won that day like that, she was impressive, and that shows something in our barn. And she’s been impressive since before we even left Belmont.
“She’s gorgeous. She went through a growth spurt in the spring and has grown six inches in every direction, which is what you want in August going into September. So it was everything to like, and, look, we took a shot.”
The racing world was buzzing Saturday night after undefeated Flightline ran away with the $1 million Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar in spectacular fashion.
In his first start since winning the Grade I Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day, Flightline won the Pacific Classic by 19 1-4 lengths in 1:59.28, .17 seconds off the track record for a mile and a quarter set by Candy Ride in 2003.
That produced a Beyer speed figure of 126, tied for second highest since the Daily Racing Form began publishing the numbers in the 1990s. Ghostzapper posted a 128 Beyer for his win in the 2004 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.
Jockey Flavien Prat left Saratoga for the day to ride Flightline, who has won his five races by a combined 62 3-4 lengths.
“Did I think he could do that – win like that? Kind of, yeah,” trainer John Sadler told the Del Mar press office. “You don’t want to say it in front of the race, but now that he’s done it … The thing about him is that he’s fast and he can carry it. Some horses are fast, but they can’t go on. This horse can. He’s an exceptional horse.”
“When we went into the final turn, he was traveling so well I asked him to pick it up a little bit,” Prat said. “As soon as I looked back and saw how far in front he was, I wrapped up on him. Obviously, this is the best horse I ever rode.”
Flightline, a 4-year-old son of Tapit, was purchased for $1 million by West Point Thoroughbreds at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale. West Point still owns a share in Flightline, along with four other LLC partnerships.
Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez, finished second, and it was another seven lengths back to Royal Ship.
A total of 36 1-2 lengths separated Flightline and Stilleto Boy, the last-place finisher in the six-horse Pacific Classic.
“Wow. What can you say?” Velazquez said. “We were in another race, and I was riding my horse trying to win it.”
“What can you say about the winner; I just know he was gone,” said Mike Smith, who rode Royal Ship. “I was trying my best for second. That’s all you can do in a race like this.”
“We got beat by an incredible horse,” Baffert said. “It was nice to see the crowd clapping for him, and it was fun watching the performance, even as a competing trainer. It’s something you don’t see every day. I knew my horse was going to show up, he was doing well and he didn’t chase the horse and he just got beat by a brilliant horse today.”
“Unbelievable winner, there’s not words to describe him, he’s really something,” said Richard Mandella, who trains Royal Ship.