Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Stuart Grant's GRACE HALL (Empire Maker) was content to stalk the early pace in Sunday's $250,000 Spinaway S. (G1) at Saratoga before putting in a game run down the center of the track to score by 1 3/4 lengths under jockey Ramon Dominguez. The Tony Dutrow trainee reeled in 2-1 favorite Judy the Beauty (Ghostzapper) in the final yards and went on to finish seven furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:23 3/5.
"I'm overwhelmed. We don't get to do that much. I am so happy," a jubilant Dutrow said. "Everybody in horse racing should live through what our team just lived through. We knew there was a lot of risk here. It was deep water. I was led to believe to take the chance today; everybody supported me, and here we are.
"Being around her gave me the confidence to try her here today. When I'm watching the race, I'm saying 'OK, we have a chance.' For the second race of her life, she answered a lot of questions today. There's a great deal of credit that belongs to her."
Born Bullish (Flashy Bull) led the way through an opening quarter in :22 4/5, just a head in front of the pressing Georgie's Angel (Bellamy Road), while Judy the Beauty tracked in third. Grace Hall was four lengths back in fourth and maintained that spot as Born Bullish posted a :45 4/5 split for the half-mile.
Judy the Beauty had begun her run by that point and easily passed the tiring pacesetter with Georgie's Angel still fighting along the inside. Dominguez had pushed the button on Grace Hall as well, sending the bay lass widest of the quartet rounding the turn. Judy the Beauty grabbed a definitive lead and appeared headed to the winner's circle, but Grace Hall kept plugging away to draw even and then pass her rival.
"I was on her a couple of times just breezing her, and she was very sensible in the morning," Dominguez said. "Tony (Dutrow) expressed to me how much he liked her, and coming from him I knew she had to be special. Sure enough, today she showed how good she is. Very professional.
"At the three-eighths I kind of tested her. She jumped on the bridle so well and I realized there was nobody on my outside. I chose to stay behind them a little longer so I wouldn't move out so early. I realized the other filly was still running, but I felt pretty confident I'd be able to run her down."
Grace Hall moved her record to a perfect two-for-two with this score while rewarding her backers with payouts of $8.80, $3.40 and $2.50 as the 3-1 co-third choice with coupled stablemate True Feelings (Latent Heat). This win boosted her career earnings to $174,000.
Judy the Beauty was best of the rest in second, nine lengths clear of And Why Not (Street Cry [Ire]) on the wire. Georgie's Angel took fourth and was followed under the line by True Feelings, Baffle Me (First Samurai), Born Bullish and Lady Pecan (Concerto). Vukovar (Forest Wildcat) was withdrawn.
"She ran really well. She tried," said Wesley Ward, owner/trainer of Judy the Beauty. "We kind of forced the pace a little bit, trying to be right there with who we thought was going to be tough. Hindsight is always 20/20. I'm really proud of her. This is the toughest race, historically in the country, to win for two-year-old fillies. I'm disappointed, but happy at the same time."
Bred in Kentucky by Darley, Grace Hall was a $95,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase with Dutrow signing the ticket. The juvenile miss is out of Group 2-placed listed winner Season's Greetings (Ire) (Ezzoud [Ire]), who has since produced an unnamed yearling filly by Elusive Quality. Season's Greetings is a half-sister to Group 3-placed Legend of Spring (GB) (Night Shift) and listed-placed Deep Space (Green Desert).
Grace Hall's third dam is multiple Grade 1 queen Life at the Top (Seattle Slew), who placed in the 1986 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Alabama S. (G1) before going on in the breeding shed to foal Group 3 victress Elizabeth Bay (Mr. Prospector). That one is the dam of Grade 3 winner Bayeux (Red Ransom), Group 3-placed listed star Colonial (Cape Cross [Ire]) and Dunnes River (Danzig), herself the dam of last year's Prix Ganay (Fr-G1) scorer, Cutlass Bay (Halling).
This female family is also responsible for 1976 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) champion Bold Forbes (Irish Castle) as well as undefeated Grade 1-winning sire Saratoga Six (Alydar).