09/02/2010 3:14PM

Pletcher sending four in Spinaway

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Barbara D. Livingston
Valiant Passion is one of four Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old fillies entered in Sunday's Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – With limited stakes options on dirt for juvenile fillies, trainer Todd Pletcher entered four of his 2-year-olds in Sunday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga. A total of eight was entered for the seven-furlong race.

Pletcher went in with R Heat Lightning, Sky Hosoya, Stopspendingmaria, and Valiant Passion. Pletcher was considering entering a fifth starter but elected to wait for an overnight stakes at Belmont Park with Summer Laugh, a 6 3/4-length winner of her debut here Aug. 8.

“I felt like she needed a little more time,” Pletcher said. “Didn’t know for sure there was going to be an option at Belmont, since the Matron wasn’t there, but with the overnight stakes there’s a suitable option.”

The New York Racing Association scrapped the Matron, a Grade 2 race at seven furlongs typically run in mid-September, for budgetary reasons.

Stopspendingmaria, who finished second in the Grade 3 Schuylerville here on opening day, and Sky Hosoya, who won for a maiden claiming tag of $50,000, will be coupled as part of a Mike Repole-owned entry.

Valiant Passion overcame a troubled trip to win her career debut for trainer Ralph Nicks, who owned the filly in partnership with Barry Berkelhammer. Team Valor purchased the filly shortly after the race and turned her over to Pletcher.

R Heat Lightning won a maiden race at Delaware Park by five lengths before running second in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 7.

Alienation and Coax Liberty, second and third, respectively, to Position Limit in the Grade 2 Adirondack, head the list of challengers to the Pletcher quartet. Le Mi Geaux, who won the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes on opening day, and Abide, a debut winner for Steve Asmussen, complete the field.

Fantastico Roberto seeks rebound

Pletcher hopes it only takes one horse to get the job done in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac as he sends out Fantastico Roberto against five others in the 1 3/16-mile turf race for 3-year-olds.

Fantastico Roberto won the Choice Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 5 but then ran off with jockey Alan Garcia while finishing seventh in the Jersey Derby at Monmouth on Aug. 1.

Pletcher said he is taking the blinkers off Fantastico Roberto and reuniting him with John Velazquez, who was aboard for the Choice victory. Fantastico Roberto breaks from post 2.

Devon Rock, third to Fantastico Roberto in the Choice; Mystic, Lethal Combination, Turf Melody, and Citrus Kid complete the field.

Awesome Maria successful in return

Awesome Maria, a graded stakes winner on dirt at 2, made a successful 3-year-old and turf debut Thursday, winning a division of the $70,000 Riskaverse Stakes by a half-length over Snow Top Mountain.

Awesome Maria, who won the Grade 2 Matron at Belmont last year, had not run since getting beat a head by Devil May Care in the Grade 1 Frizette last Oct. 10 when trained by Stanley Hough. She was making her first start for Pletcher on Thursday.

Pletcher said he chose the Riskaverse because of the one-mile distance more so than the turf.

“We were looking for a place to start her back, we felt she was a filly that’d appreciate some added ground,” said Pletcher, who trains the filly for Joyce Robsham. “Obviously, the Alabama is not somewhere you start back in, the Victory Ride we felt like was a little too short. She worked on the grass and she worked well.”

In the Riskaverse, Velazquez had Awesome Maria stalking the pacesetting Shirley She Can through six-furlongs of 1:11.39. Awesome Maria took the lead outside the sixteenth pole and held off a late-running Snow Top Mountain, who was second by a half-length over In Te Domine, who encountered traffic trouble.

Awesome Maria, a daughter of Maria’s Mon, covered the mile in 1:35.06 and returned $4.70.

Mr. Fantasy back in allowance

Mr. Fantasy, winner of the Grade 3 Withers in 2009, makes his fourth attempt for his first win of this year when he runs in a second-level allowance that goes as the third race Saturday.

Mr. Fantasy was away from the races for 11 months following last year’s Withers. He had a knee chip surgically removed.

After a disappointing third-place finish in an allowance race at Gulfstream in March, Mr. Fantasy finished second in the Billy Redcoat Stakes at Aqueduct and second in the Decathlon Stakes at Monmouth on May 22.

Trainer Mike Hushion said Mr. Fantasy suffered a foot injury, known as a grabbed quarter, when he stumbled at the start of the Decathlon.

“It was a deep one,” Hushion said. “We had him in very light training for a while.”

Noting that Mr. Fantasy is not a great horse around the gate, Hushion was less than thrilled that the colt drew the rail.

The allowance includes Brother Bird, who for the second straight race runs on the same card as his more famous older half-brother, Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner who is in the Woodward. Brother Bird, a son of Yonaguska, has won his last two starts.

Flying Pegasus, Safe Trip, and Callide Valley are other contenders in the field.

◗ There will be free grandstand and clubhouse admission for Monday’s 40th and final day of racing at the Spa.

Belmont Park will open Saturday, Sept. 11.