Leah Gyarmati somehow meshed academic pursuits that led to a master’s degree in theology with a racing career that led to a solid record, but never a Grade I win.
The 48-year-old trainer graduated to that level on Sunday when Sweet Reason won the Spinaway at Saratoga Race Course, skipping away in the slop by 5 3⁄4 lengths over Stopchargingmaria.
Gyarmati, a jockey from 1997-99 who won just one race at Saratoga as a rider, has a total of seven stakes wins as a trainer now.
“It was spectacular,” she said. “She ran quite impressively first time out when she won, but it was an off-the-turf race, the competition wasn’t anywhere near what she faced today, so this is absolutely thrilling for her to come and do what she did against horses that have proven that they’re very, very good.”
While several of the Spinaway runners were competing in the other graded-stakes races at the meet, Sweet Reason won by 6 1⁄4 lengths in the slop on Aug. 9.
That must have convinced bettors to send her off as the 5-2 second choice against proven stakes horses like Designer Legs, Bahnah and Brazen Persuasion.
The race began in bizarre fashion, when 8-1 Brazen Persuasion dug in her front feet and refused to leave the starting gate under Rosie Napravnik.
After trying to urge her to run, Napravnik had no choice but to walk her out and across the track to wait for the race to finish without them.
By then, Bahnah was in the lead among a group of fillies who got out of the gate quickly, with Sweet Reason and Alex Solis waiting on the outside.
She made her move at the half-mile pole, took the lead at the quarter pole and ran away from the competition.
“The other morning when I worked her, two horses broke off six lengths in front of her and by the three-sixteenths pole, she had caught them and blew by them,” Solis said. “That’s what she does. She is just having fun. She runs like she has done it her whole life.”
“I knew she would come running at the end, I just didn’t know where that would put us,” Gyarmati said.
Sweet Reason, a bay daughter of Street Sense, is owned by Jeff Treadway of Treadway Racing Stable.
He bought her for $185,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale last year.
“Obviously, this is very, very exciting,” Gyarmati said. “And it couldn’t happen for a better owner. He really had tons of patience, he’s done all the right things as an owner, done all the right things by his horses when things didn’t work out, found homes for them. And it’s paid off.”
Gyarmati said she wouldn’t rule out sending Sweet Reason to the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park on Oct. 5.
Perhaps Sweet Reason will be graced with a dry track for a change.
“She trains very well on a dry track, and I’m sort of anxious to see how that translates into what she does in the afternoon on a dry track,” Gyarmati said. “But that’s OK, this is good enough for me for now. I can live with this for awhile.”
Prior to the Spinaway, The Woodbine-based Five Iron got to the front and held off 2-1 favorite Notacatbutallama in the stretch to win the Grade III Saranac by 2 1⁄2 lengths on a Mellon turf course listed as “good.”
It was the third straight stakes win for the son of Sharp Humor out of the Thunder Gulch mare Tee Off, and the first graded stakes win of his 11-race career.
“The lead came easy to my horse, so I let him run,” jockey Luis Saez said. “Coming for home, I still had a lot of horse. When I saw Notacatbutallama coming, I knew we could hold him off. He gave me everything he had to win this race.”
“I knew if he could get the lead and get left alone, he’d be very dangerous,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “He’s a very determined horse. I’ve never had a horse prick his ears when he makes the lead like that and run into the bridle like he does. He’s a fun horse, and as he’s gotten older, he’s found his niche and become very effective at it.”
Five Iron got the first quarter-mile in 22.97 and was still cruising along at a quick clip in 46.76 for the half and 1:10.90 for six furlongs.
Joha held second, but was passed by Notacatbutallama, trained by Todd Pletcher, on the turn.
“The winner set solid fractions on a turf course that’s not that firm and just kept going,” Pletcher said.