The stableman who worked at the barn entrance seemed like he could help.
“Where is Spendarelle ? The eastern filly?”
He looked up from his chore.
“Not sure,” he said. “Go ask Alice. I think she will know.
Sure enough, there was Graham Motion’s alter-ego Alice Clapham on the end of a rod tied to 3-year-old filly Spendarella, who stretched her legs around Richard Mandella’s shed as travel assistant Lisa Conway stocked up his stall and prepared his late afternoon meal.
The delegation from Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland is at the San Diego County venue for the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (G1T) on Saturday, August 20, giving a spark of power to a full nine-stadium field around the seven – furrowed oval. Spendarella may only be a Grade 2 race winner so far, but it’s her outstanding performance in the Coronation Stakes (G1) at the June Royal Ascot meeting that sets her apart. an opposition that includes no less than four participants from the Irish wing. from the Phil D’Amato stable.
Such a response should come as no surprise. There are very few Grade 1 opportunities for 3 year old fillies on grass. Five, in fact, during the North American season. The Del Mar Oaks have been part of elite events since 1994, when the American Graded Stakes Committee could no longer ignore their attraction to fillies like Flawlessly, Hidden Light, Hollywood Wildcat, Possibly Perfect, Fowda and Race the Wild Wind.
Spendarella lost the Coronation Stakes (G1) by just under five lengths to the champion 2-year-old filly Cartier Inspired a daughter of frankel formed by John and Thady Gosden. Most of this margin was accumulated in the last furrow, during which Inspiral launched into another dimension. Spendarella picked up the pace from the start of the hilly, right-handed mile and hung on to earn a three-way shot for second prize. The disabled will note that Inspiral finished second as a heavyweight choice in the ensuing Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes (G1), but then redeemed themselves on August 14 by beating older men in the Prix du Haras de Fresnay Le Buffard Jacques Le Marois (G1) in Deauville.
“The Ascot race was on a Friday so she slept most of that Saturday,” Clapham said. “But on Sunday she was up and bright, and we left for home a few days later. She always eats well when she travels. Never bothered at all. In fact, she’s the kind of horse that craves food. watch out. If you wander around, she’ll be at the front of her stall, waiting for you to return.”
If Spendarella had a passport, it looks like she’s on the run. She was bred by her owner, Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, but foaled at Sequel Stallions in New York. His dam, Spanish Bunny, was bred and raced in California for Barry Abrams and Madeline Auerbach (with partners). His father, Karakontia was bred in Japan, raced in France and had his best day at Santa Anita Park in November 2014 when he won the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T).
Standing quietly in the dusty yard outside the Mandella barn, with the giant painting of a whale on the building behind her, Spendarella let the late afternoon breeze from the Pacific fill her nostrils and tickle her toupee. Striking a casual pose, she’s a classic bay with black spikes and white anklets behind, as well as a more delicate version of her father’s flamboyance.
Spendarella walks away to win the Appalachian Stakes
“She’s not too big and tall, but she’s strong, compact,” Clapham said. “Not heavy, though. When you see her on the track, she’s very light on her feet. That way of doing, plus a bit of substance, makes her just the right size for a filly. They don’t need to be fat when they have a heart like his.”
Clapham comes from an honored equestrian family. Her older sister, Diana Clapham, won an Olympic silver medal in the team eventing with her British comrades at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Two of the three events took place at Santa Anita Park.
So it stands to reason that Sister Alice sets the bar high when it comes to all things horse flesh. During its time at Motion, the stable won major awards such as Animal Kingdom, Shared Account, Better Talk Now, Irish War Cry and Share , the Shared Account daughter who won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T). Like Spendarella, Sharing finished crowning runner-up at Royal Ascot in the whirlwind of Ireland, alpine star .
“I guess we were a bit unlucky to go in and be second twice in this race against world-class fillies,” Clapham said. “I hope it will be our turn one day.”
With only four starts under his belt, Spendarella appears to be upside down at this point and destined for the kind of career that gets even the most skeptical fans to notice. Clapham was far from surprised.
“She walked into Keeneland at age 2,” Clapham said. “There were just some growing pains, which is why we backed off and didn’t direct her at age 2. But I said to Graham, ‘We have our next Sharing.'”
And what was the coach’s reaction?
“He said, ‘Oh. Wow,'” Clapham replied.
After a life in the saddle, Clapham, 52, stepped away from her regular duties aboard the Motion horses in the mornings to focus on her role in running the stable. When Spendarella started training, Clapham felt a pang for those days of sailing atop something special. Even from the ground, she knew the feeling.
“She is the definition of a great filly to ride,” Clapham said. “They have this class about them. And when she blows, she’s the type to sit and watch the part.”
Spendarella’s afternoon partners would agree. Jose Ortiz was on board for his first win and a win in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, while Tyler Gaffalione took over for Spendarella’s score in the Appalachian Stakes Presented by Japan Racing Association (G2T) at Keeneland. British ace William Buick rode her in the crowning glory.
“William said you could do whatever you wanted with her,” Clapham said. “He wasn’t sure she even saw Inspiral there in the middle of the course, but she wasn’t going to let those other two pass her by. I asked her, ‘So you wouldn’t mind not bring her back, will you?’ He said, ‘Oh no. Anytime you want me back, I’ll ride her.'”
Clapham laughs at the memory. It’s good to be asked. Buick turned out to be otherwise engaged at York Racecourse in England on Saturday with six mounts on the closing day of the Ebor Festival, which put Gaffalione back on board.
“Tyler reminded us, ‘She’s mine,'” Clapham said with a laugh. “But Jose won’t let us forget that she’s his too.”
If Spendarella runs to form in the Oaks, they’ll have to make room on the bandwagon.