08/30/2013 11:40AM

Steve Klein: Spinaway's lone closer worth a wager

Tom Keyser
The race flow in the Spinaway may provide an ideal setup for debut winner Sweet Reason.

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The two fillies trained by Todd Pletcher are probably the ones to beat in Sunday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway at Saratoga, but choosing between them won’t be easy.

Sweet Whiskey was heavily favored at a shade less than 1-2 and led throughout when she won her debut by 5 1/4 lengths. She is the 2-1 favorite on the track’s morning line.

Stopchargingmaria also led throughout and won her debut by 5 1/2 lengths as the 1-2 favorite. She is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1.

The fractions and final time of Sweet Whiskey’s race were significantly faster than those of Stopchargingmaria, but the track was playing faster on the day Sweet Whiskey won. With the track variant factored in, Sweet Whiskey earned an 86 Beyer Speed Figure for her final time and Stopchargingmaria was almost as fast with an 85.

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Sweet Whiskey won her race three weeks ago, so none of the fillies she defeated have run back yet.

Stopchargingmaria won on July 19, and four of her opponents have raced again, so it’s possible to get a line on the competition she beat. Three of them improved significantly.

Predicate, who finished third, 13 lengths behind Stopchargingmaria, finished second against maiden specials in her next race, 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner. She improved her Beyer by nine points, from 49 to 58.

Art of the Game, who is part of the Spinaway field, finished fourth, 18 1/4 lengths behind Stopchargingmaria. She beat maiden specials by 3 1/4 lengths in her next race and improved her Beyer by 31 points, from 34 to 65.

Ireland finished fifth, 22 1/2 lengths behind Stopchargingmaria. She moved to turf and finished sixth, but she cut her margin of defeat to 10 1/4 lengths while her Beyer improved by 18 points, from 22 to 40.

Last-place finisher Stormin Mary lost to Stopchargingmaria by 27 lengths, then finished last again, beaten by 31 3/4 lengths. She managed a 10 Beyer in her debut, but she earned a negative number in her last race.

The argument for Stopchargingmaria is that she has been flattered by most of the fillies she beat. Then again, Sweet Whiskey has trained impressively since her win. She was fastest of 50 when she breezed a half-mile in 47.60 seconds on Aug. 26.

There also are other fillies to consider. Bahnah was the impressive six-length winner of a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special at Churchill in her debut. She tracked a fast pace, then rallied to dead-heat for the win in the Grade 3 Schuylerville in her next start.

Brazen Persuasion defeated maiden specials at Churchill in her second start. She set a swift contested pace, then held on to participate in the dead heat for win in the Schuylerville last time. The switch from six to seven furlongs could hinder both of these fillies.

Designer Legs is 3 for 3 with help from a win by disqualification last time in the Grade 2 Adirondack. The concern is that she hasn’t run as fast as most of her opponents, so she will need to show more Sunday.

Art of the Game and Dancing House must improve. True Blue Nation beat just one rival last time and faces a difficult task in this race.

Sweet Reason is the betting value in the Spinaway. She was 18 lengths behind the leaders early in her debut and appeared to have no chance in that 5 1/2-furlong race. She uncorked a powerful closing kick that erased her 18-length deficit and quickly turned it into a 6 1/4-length win margin, with energy left in reserve.

So why is Sweet Reason only the fifth betting choice at 8-1 on the morning line? That win was earned on a sloppy track, so many handicappers are going to assume that she won’t come close to matching her good form if she catches a fast track in the Spinaway.

When a horse loves a wet track, she typically handles it so much better than her opponents do that her dominance enables her to grab the early lead and quickly draw away to an insurmountable lead. The fact that Sweet Reason ran a very different type of race is encouraging for those who are hoping that her talent contributed more to her victory than the track condition did. It also should be noted that she has trained well on fast tracks.

Sweet Reason is the only genuine closer among the leading contenders, so the pace scenario should set up well for her. The switch from 5 1/2 to seven furlongs can only help.

I can’t promise that Sweet Reason will match her debut form on a fast track, but I’m happy to take an overlaid price on her while waiting to find out. I will bet Sweet Reason to win and box her in the exacta with Sweet Whiskey and Stopchargingmaria. I also will play trifectas using both Sweet Whiskey and Stopchargingmaria for first and second, with Sweet Reason in the third slot.