July 23, 2024

Gretzky the Great completes hat trick in Summer; Lady Speightspeare rules Natalma

Gretzky the Great
Gretzky the Great scored his signature win in the Summer Stakes (Michael Burns Photo)

The well-named Nyquist colt Gretzky the Great made it a hat trick in Sunday’s $212,452 Summer Stakes (G1) at Woodbine, punching his free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The Mark Casse pupil’s emphatic performance helped him to withstand both a stewards’ inquiry and a claim of foul.

Campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber, Gretzky the Great ranked as the 2.40-1 favorite after his victory in the Soaring Free S. following an impressive maiden romp. Those were sprints, but his pedigree suggested he’d enjoy the stretch-out to a mile here, and so it proved.

Familiar foe Ready to Repeat dashed right to the early lead, after trainer Gail Cox believed rating tactics didn’t suit in his recent third in the Soaring Free. Ready to Repeat was indeed more in his element on the front through fractions of :24.10, :47.82, and 1:11.11 on the firm course, and he continued with enthusiasm into the stretch.

Gretzky the Great, well placed in second by Kazushi Kimura, was simply too strong. Surging past in the stretch, he crossed directly in front of Ready to Repeat and forced him to change lanes. Ready to Repeat recovered while looking second-best to the 3 1/4-length winner.

The inquiry sign flashed, and Luis Contreras on Ready to Repeat lodged an objection for interference. But two key points were in Gretzky the Great’s favor: his decisive margin, and the fact that Ready to Repeat maintained the runner-up spot by a comfortable length. As a result, there wasn’t a persuasive case to demote the clear first-past-the-post for an infraction that didn’t cost his rival a better placing, and the stewards let the result stand.

Gretzky the Great clocked the mile in 1:34.53 to hand Kimura, who won both Eclipse and Sovereign Awards as champion apprentice jockey, his first Grade 1 laurel.

“He is such an amazing horse,” Kimura said. “When I came to the final turn then come through the final stretch, he had a tremendous explosion. He sometimes was a little bit lugging in, but he’s just still a baby.”

Dolder Grand got up for third by a half-length after scrimmaging with the fourth American Monarch. Next came Heat of the Night, Secret Potion, and Download.

Gretzky the Great sports a mark of 4-3-1-0, $252,205, while racing exclusively at Woodbine. Second to the speedier Ready to Repeat in his 5-furlong debut, the bay wired an off-the-turf maiden at 6 furlongs, and reverted to the grass to prevail by a neck in the Aug. 23 Soaring Free.

Bred by Anderson Farms in Ontario, Gretzky the Great RNA’d for $295,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. The May 12 foal is out of the multiple stakes-placed Bernardini mare Pearl Turn, a descendant of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Sabin.

Gretzky the Great could become a third-generation Breeders’ Cup winner. Nyquist, from the first crop of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Uncle Mo, emulated his sire in the 2015 edition.

Lady Speightspeare
Lady Speightspeare made it 2-for-2 in the Natalma Stakes (Michael Burns Photo)

Later in the $191,623 Natalma (G1), the corresponding “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), Lady Speightspeare extended her record to 2-for-2 by resolutely holding off Alda. The market nailed the exacta, with the 2.50-1 favorite besting the 2.60-1 second choice.

A Charles Fipke homebred trained by Roger Attfield, Lady Speightspeare is a close relative of highly regarded stablemate Shirl’s Speight who was flirting with the Kentucky Derby (G1). Both are by Speightstown, and their dams are accomplished half-sisters. Lady Speightspeare was produced by the Grade 2-winning Theatrical mare Lady Shakespeare, a full sister to 2007 Woodbine Mile (G1) hero Shakespeare and a half to Perfect Shirl, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) upsetter who’s responsible for Shirl’s Speight.

Although her 3-year-old “cousin” lost his perfect record when seventh versus elders in Saturday’s Woodbine Mile, Lady Speightspeare came through on her more straightforward mission. She had one anxious moment in the gate when starting to rear up, causing jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson to extricate herself, but she settled down in a professional effort after the latch was sprung.

Unlike her front-running debut over the course, Lady Speightspeare was content to let the 49-1 longest shot on the board, Big Big Plans, do the pacesetting chores. Big Big Plans, drawn widest of all in post 7, cleared the field and established splits of :23.77, :47.92, and 1:11.59.

Lady Speightspeare, like Gretzky the Great in the Summer, worked out the textbook tracking trip in second. Launching her bid in upper stretch, the favorite seized command and got the jump on Alda who had been at the rear early. Alda tried her hardest to erase the gap, but Lady Speightspeare was staying on too well. Crossing the wire three-quarters of a length on top, the chestnut finished in 1:34.61.

Alda was in turn 2 3/4 lengths clear of a slow-starting Seasons, who headed a somewhat erratic Dreaming of Drew. Sleek Lynx checked in fifth, trailed by Stunning Princess and Big Big Plans.

“In the starting gate, she acted up a little bit, but a little bit was a testament to her intent,” Wilson observed. “Last time she ran (in a 7-furlong maiden Aug. 22), she was such a racehorse. She broke through the pack early and went to the lead with such intent, I think it was the same thing today in the gate. She knew it was coming, they yelled ‘last one,’ she was anticipating the doors to open so she popped up a little.

“But kudos to the gate crew here at Woodbine, they kept her straight and steady so, despite her rearing, she didn’t manage to get herself hung up or hurt in anyway, which meant she was able to compete and win today.

“The doors opened and I just kind of put my hands down and the outside horse out-stepped her the first little bit and she showed that composure of a racehorse, she knew that she was going to get a chance to run and I had a chance to let that horse cross over and just put her right on her flank and she settled into stride, got into rhythm and, man, when they started to come to her, just like last time, she really leveled off and dug in.”

“That’s always nice to see,” Attfield noted. “When you break your maiden and you’re going into a race like this off of going wire-to-wire you really haven’t had any education or anything going into something like this so it was nice to see that for sure.”

Lady Speightspeare has bankrolled $146,394 from her two outings at Woodbine. She’ll try to become the second straight Juvenile Fillies Turf winner sired by Speightstown, after Sharing.

“Well, that (the Breeders’ Cup) would be up to Mr. Fipke,” Attfield said, “and I would say knowing Mr. Fipke we probably are.”