09/03/2016 6:31PM

Sweet Loretta, Pretty City Dancer hit wire together in Spinaway

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Barbara D. Livingston
Sweet Loretta (1) and Pretty City Dancer, well clear of the rest of the field, finish in a dead heat in the seven-furlong Spinaway.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainers Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse met en route to the winner’s circle as the photo sign blinked after their 2-year-old fillies Sweet Loretta and Pretty City Dancer hit the finish line simultaneously at the end of Saturday’s Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga.

“Todd asked me if I would take a dead heat and I said I would,” said Casse. “And he agreed.”

And sure enough, that’s exactly what they got. But that wasn’t the end of the drama. Shortly before the unofficial order of finish was posted, the stewards also posted the inquiry sign, looking into the stretch run after Sweet Loretta and Pretty City Dancer engaged in a bumping duel as they approached the wire.

But in the end, to almost nobody’s surprise, the stewards allowed the final result to stand. With Sweet Loretta and Pretty City Dancer both becoming Grade 1 winners, the pair checking home 5 3/4 lengths clear of Cherry Lodge, who tired steadily to finish third as the even-money favorite.

Sweet Loretta and Pretty City Dancer both benefitted from a lively pace, set by Runway Doll and pressed by Cherry Lodge. Sweet Loretta was the first to strike, rallying three wide to take command in early stretch. She edged clear near the furlong grounds, then dug in gamely after appearing to relinquish a short advantage in the shadow of the wire.          

Pretty City Dancer bobbled briefly at the break, raced wide while within striking distance on the turn, lugged in while failing to switch off her left lead down the stretch, stuck her head in front briefly a few yards from the finish line before settling for the dead heat.

Sweet Loretta, winner of the Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day, paid $4.90. Pretty City Dancer, winner of the Debutante at Churchill Downs in her previous start, returned $5.60.  Final time for seven furlongs over the fast track was a relatively slow 1:24.18.

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“I thought she was going to get there, and then she kind of laid in,” said Casse, who trains Pretty City Dancer for John Oxley. “I thought we won, then I thought we got beat watching the replay. She’s a nice horse, and I think she’ll get better as she runs further. Obviously having the previous experience she had helped. It’s something we strive to do early on, and in this case it worked out.”     

Pletcher said he thought Sweet Loretta got a pretty good head bob, but still wasn’t sure whether he had won or not.

“The race was similar to [Friday] when we had a filly with Mark Casse that exchanged bumps pretty good, and I figured if they didn’t change that one, they wouldn’t change this one, especially with the dead heat,” said Pletcher, who trains Sweet Loretta for the St. Elias Stable. “Cherry Lodge looked like she got a little bit tired after getting a little too keen early. The two most seasoned horses finished one-two. We saw the trend all day. There is no substitute for experience, especially in seven-furlong races for 2-year-olds.”