07/02/2016 6:26PM

Spelling Again holds off Cali Star in Princess Rooney

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photography
Spelling Again, ridden by Luis Saez, earns a trip to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint by winning the Grade 2 Princess Rooney.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Spelling Again earned herself an all-expenses-paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint after holding off a hard-luck Cali Star to register a neck decision in Saturday’s $250,000 Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park.

The Grade 2 Princess Rooney shared top billing with the Grade 2 Smile on Saturday’s rich Summit of Speed program. Both races are designated as Win and You’re In events for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup.

Spelling Again, a Grade 2 winner last season, finished seventh behind Sheer Drama in her only previous start against Grade 1 company earlier this year in the Madison at Keeneland. She flew to South Florida for the Princess Rooney on Wednesday, along with Birdatthewire, who finished third as the even-money favorite and lone Grade 1 winner in the field.

With Luis Saez aboard, Spelling Again was reserved within easy striking distance of the early leader, moved in tandem three wide with Kiss to Remember to challenge for command nearing the stretch, disposed of that rival despite failing to change her leads through midstretch, and then narrowly withstood a final surge by Cali Star.

Cali Star checked while attempting to commence her rally near the quarter pole, swung well wide for clearance into the stretch, and then finished best of all to just miss. Birdatthewire moved within close contention in early stretch but could not sustain the bid while finishing another 2  1/2 lengths behind Cali Star.

Spelling Again, a 5–year-old daughter of Awesome Again, is trained by Brad Cox for Seajay Racing. She covered seven furlongs in 1:22.09 and paid $8.50.

“It was a fantastic race, great effort by her,” said Cox by phone after watching the race from Churchill Downs. “She probably had to move a little bit prematurely when that horse [Kiss to Remember] moved up outside her on the turn. But Luis recognized it, stayed after her, put that one away,  and held off [Cali Star]. Gulfstream is a tough place to ship into in the middle of the summer, but she’s a tough horse and tough horses overcome things. She rewarded us today. I’m very proud of her.”

Cox said he’ll let his filly tell him when and where to run her next.

“Honestly, I’m kind of a one race at a time kind of guy,” said  Cox. “We’ll decide not so much where but when she’ll run next by how she’s doing. Whether she runs in the Breeders’ Cup will be totally up to her as well. It just depends on how she’s doing if we go that far with her.”

Doctor J Dub upsets Umphrey Turf Sprint   

Doctor J Dub controlled the pace then held off a determined try from Daring Kathy, the only filly in the race, to upset the $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint with a game neck decision as a 28-1 outsider in the field of nine grass sprint specialists. Successful Native, the 3-2 favorite, finished third.

Doctor J Dub, returning on just six days’  rest while racing with blinkers on once again, paid $58.  He is trained by Jena Antonucci for the Drawing Away Stable.