09/01/2006 12:00AM

Sizing up the Spinaway and Hopeful

Spinaway contender Cotton Blossom won the Schuylerville against the track bias.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The last two Grade 1 races of the Saratoga meet are a pair of $250,000, seven-furlong sprints for 2-year-olds, Sunday's Spinaway and Monday's Hopeful. We'll examine the 115th Spinaway field in post position order, then look ahead to the prospective field for the 102nd Hopeful.

Pro Pink: Came from eight lengths back to beat Audacious Chloe in her debut, and Audacious Chloe returned to graduate at Belmont in early June. Against males in the Kentucky Breeders' Cup, Pro Pink made up five lengths behind Datrick, who then went to Lone Star Park and won a trial for the TTA Sales Futurity at 1-5, before running second at 4-5 in the Futurity itself.

Appealing Zophie: A blowout winner of her debut, she returned four weeks ago to duel with even-money winner Change Up in the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies on the West Virginia Derby undercard, and received the fastest Beyer Speed Figure in the Spinaway lineup. The fractions of 21.62, 44.70, and 1:10.03 were faster than the male division of the Juvenile, which went in 21.69, 44.80, and a much slower 1:11.93.

My Favorite: Would be a surprise off a four-furlong win in 48 seconds at Great Lakes Downs.

Cotton Blossom: Trainer Todd Pletcher has won three of the last seven Spinaways, including last year's with Adieu at 7-1. Cotton Blossom was let go at 8-1 when she won the Schuylerville opening day, an effort that was especially good because she put in a three-wide move against the grain of a pronounced inside bias. "Most 2-year-olds are schooled from day one to run short and fast," said Pletcher's assistant trainer Seth Benzel. "This filly has shown the ability to rate and sit behind horses. That really gives her a big leg up on her competition."

Post Invader: Made up some ground in a no-threat fourth in the Adirondack, but that race had a blazing early pace and a last five-sixteenths in a slow 34 seconds.

X Star: Whenever Larry Jones is interviewed by the local media he conveys an "Aw, shucks" attitude that belies his expertise at shipping in to get the money in New York. He won the 2004 Acorn with Island Sand, and nearly won this year's Acorn when Hello Liberty was beaten a neck at 9-1 by three-time Grade 1 winner Bushfire. In her previous start, Hello Liberty won the Grade 2 Nassau County ($21.20) as the longest price on the board. More recently, Jones bagged the Grade 1 Prioress with Wildcat Bettie B ($12.80), and then brought that filly to Saratoga for a last-to-first score in the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes on Aug. 24.

It looks as if Jones has something to work with in X Star, whose lone outing at Delaware in July was a lengthy maiden win through fractions of 22.09, 45.70, and 1:11.01. By comparison, a race later, the juvenile filly Glacken's Mark won a first-level allowance at odds of 3-10, and required 22.26, 46.17, and 1:12.13. Later on the card, the 3-year-old Master of Disaster upped his Delaware record to 5 for 5 after running fractions of 22.36, 45.70, and 1:10.07 in a third-level allowance. X Star ran an identical half-mile to Master of Disaster's, so she has some major early speed.

"We might be biting off a little more than we can chew" (aw, shucks), said Jones. "But she sure acts like she wants to be a good thing. She is spotting them all experience, but she does have a lot of class."

Cool the Economy: Off-the-pace horses did well on day 2 of the meet, and among them was this maiden winner who rallied wide to win going away. Her four workouts since include a nice breeze in the slop on Wednesday; her pedigree also suggests any moisture in the track could be a plus.

Ruby Crown: A half-sister to last year's Alabama winner Sweet Symphony, this George Steinbrenner homebred is one of six Nick Zito-trained juveniles to have won their career debuts at the meet. This is a logical distance progression for the daughter of Awesome Again, and routine improvement second time out puts her in the picture.


As of Friday afternoon, Circular Quay, Irish Ace, Pegasus Wind, Scat Daddy, and Unbridled Express were expected for the Hopeful, while the connections of Buffalo Man and War Wolf were still on the fence.

Scat Daddy gained a world of experience to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the Sanford, when he was spinning his wheels inside maiden pacesetter Teuflesberg in upper stretch but got up with a last-ditch surge after being wheeled outside.

The main speed of the Hopeful will be Pegasus Wind, a maiden winner on the first Saturday of the meet for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Hopeful five times. Pegasus Wind set a fast pace while chased by Most Distinguished - who came back on Travers Day to run a half-mile in 44.95, only a bit slower than Henny Hughes (44.62) ran in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.