Exciting turf sophomore Carl Spackler outclassed the field in Friday’s $169,750 Saranac (G3) as a 1-4 favorite should, cruising to a 3 1/2-length victory at Saratoga. Under judicious handling by Tyler Gaffalione, the Chad Brown pupil was barely asked to stretch his legs in this tune-up for the Oct. 7 Coolmore Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
Carl Spackler was coming off a deep-closing score in the Aug. 11 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (G2), where a stronger pace was on tap. In this more tactical affair with a smaller field, the e Five Racing Thoroughbreds homebred took up a forward position to track front-running Taking Candy.
“Once we had a target,” Brown said, “I felt pretty good. I thought we would be on the lead actually, but Tyler knows this horse so well and, with all his horses, he comes well prepared. These short fields with a short price can be tricky sometimes, and I just said, ‘Look, ride it loose and if you go to the lead, which I expect, fine. If someone really wants to go, it’s even better,’ because with a target, it worked out perfect.
“The fact it (the turf) had some give in it, I didn’t mind it. The horse really seemed to love it last time. As it was drying out, I wasn’t really concerned on a firm turf, but I wasn’t in a hurry to dry it out either.”
Carl Spackler was hovering nearby through fractions of :23.58 and :48.56 on the good inner course. Drawing to within a head of Taking Candy passing six furlongs in 1:12.56, the favorite was poised to assert on cue. Gaffalione just nudged him to put the race away, and Carl Spackler steadily pulled clear to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.23.
“He was traveling well within himself,” Gaffalione said. “I just wanted to try and get him to shut off. We have bigger things down the road, so didn’t want to do too much today.
“That day (in the Hall of Fame) I wanted to be a little more forwardly placed, but we had a little hiccup out of the gate. What I loved is that he relaxed back there and showed a real nice turn of foot that day, and that gave me confidence moving forward that I can place him wherever I need to. He’s very talented.”
Taking Candy held second by three-quarters of a length from Lost Ark in a promising stakes debut.
“He gave me a very good race,” Taking Candy’s rider, Jose Lezcano, said. “The winner is a very good horse, but my horse gave me a good effort. I gave him his best chance, tried to be the pace and keep going.”
Lost Ark, last year’s Sapling S. winner who did not progress as hoped on dirt, might have found a new avenue for himself in this first turf attempt. Mendelssohns March checked in fourth, and Yacowlef trailed. Brown scratched his back-up entrant, Activist Investing. Also withdrawn were Freedom Trail and the main-track-only Gilmore.
Carl Spackler advanced his record to 5-3-1-0, $432,250. Bred in Ireland by the Edwards’ family’s Fifth Avenue Bloodstock, the chestnut is by Lope de Vega and out of the More Than Ready mare Zindaya, a Grade 2 winner for e Five and Brown in 2016.
“It’s very rewarding,” Brown said, “and I trained this horse’s mother for the Edwards family – it was one of our first big winners together, and to see her handsome colt that she threw out here winning two stakes at the same meet at Saratoga is hard to do, I know that very well.
“I decided to run back on short rest just thinking I gave him quite a bit of a break since Churchill when he didn’t run that well (eighth in the American Turf [G2] on Kentucky Derby Day), and he was just doing so well out of the Hall of Fame win. I’m looking at what I want to do with him in early October at Keeneland, and I just thought it was too big of a gap because we’re going to possibly go after the Coolmore Mile, which will be a tall order.
“I wasn’t crazy about the eight weeks (off) for this horse, so I ran it by Bob (Edwards) and he said, ‘Whatever you feel is right for the conditioning and development of the horse.’ It all worked out.”
Brown believes that the Saranac will set Carl Spackler up “really well” for the Coolmore Mile.
“I love a little cutback into a mile in a bigger field with some pace. Again, tall order, he’ll get a little bit of a weight break being a three-year-old, and as long as he’s healthy and doing well, that’s where he’ll run.”