Spectacular debut winner Ways and Means will take her first meaningful class test in Sunday’s $300,000 Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga, where undefeated Adirondack (G3) heroine Brightwork brings a lengthier resume.
Ways and Means could hardly have been more impressive in her Aug. 6 unveiling at the Spa. A half-sister to Grade 3 winners Highly Motivated and Surge Capacity, representing the same Klaravich Stables/Chad Brown tandem, she trounced a six-furlong maiden by 12 3/4 lengths. Ways and Means proverbially made it look easy while notching a 98 Brisnet Speed rating, signaling that she had more in hand. The Practical Joke filly aims to validate that idea in the seven-furlong Spinaway with a returning Flavien Prat.
Brightwork has made a habit of overturning hotpots in all three starts so far. Toppling an odds-on favorite first time out at Keeneland, the John Ortiz trainee then rebuffed highly-regarded V V’s Dream in the Debutante S. It was a similar story in the Adirondack, only Brightwork drew away by her biggest margin yet, five lengths, over well-touted Here U Come Again. She also recorded a field-best 101 Speed rating.
If Brightwork can upstage Ways and Means too, she’d boost her reputation further on the road to the Breeders’ Cup. She would also become the second straight Spinaway winner for sire Outwork, after Leave No Trace (2022). Irad Ortiz Jr. will be back aboard Brightwork in post 9, just to the outside of Ways and Means in post 8.
Several other noteworthy debut winners take the class hike. Alys Beach, from the first crop of Omaha Beach, was gritty in her July 30 victory here for Tom Amoss. The near-miss second from that race, Life Talk, came back to dominate a maiden on Thursday. The Bill Mott-trained Sugar Hi romped by six lengths on the July 13 opener. Ken McPeek’s Wonder Ride, by hot sire Gun Runner, overcame trouble to win a course-and-distance maiden.
Miz Sense prevailed going a mile in an off-the-turf maiden, and she was heavily favored to make it two in a row in similar conditions in Wednesday’s P.G. Johnson S. But once she got loose before the start, necessitating a scratch, she was rerouted to this much deeper affair. Miz Sense will try to become a seventh Spinaway winner for Todd Pletcher. He’s tied at six with mentor and fellow Hall of Famer, D. Wayne Lukas, who sends out the thrice-raced maiden Lady Moscato.
Becky’s Joker, who famously scored first out in the Schuylerville (G3), showed little when seventh behind Brightwork in the Adirondack. While she’s better than that, the Gary Contessa pupil needs to move forward even from the Schuylerville to get involved. Closing Act, third in the Schuylerville, had won her first two for Steve Asmussen, including the Astoria S. Rounding out the 10-filly field is Lemorian, a front-running winner in her premiere at Horseshoe Indianapolis.