Familiar story in Smart N Fancy

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A year ago, trainer Shug McGaughey aimed 4-year-old filly Fair Point for an allowance on Travers Weekend. The filly won an allowance for non-winners of two-other-than earlier in the Saratoga Race Course meeting and her Hall of Fame conditioner hoped to race in a three-other-than next out. The race didn’t fill, so McGaughey entered her into the $100,000 Smart N Fancy Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She won, earning her first stakes victory. Graham Motion’s Miss Ella finished second after winning the Caress Stakes earlier in the meet.

Trainer Horacio DePaz also hoped to run the 5-year-old mare Ginger N Rye for an allowance on Travers Weekend this year. The mare won an allowance optional for non-winners of two-other-than at the meet and her young conditioner hoped to race in a three-other-than next out. The race didn’t fill, so DePaz entered her into the $100,000 Smart N Fancy Stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. She won, earning her first stakes victory. Graham Motion’s Miss Ella finished second after winning the Caress Stakes earlier in the meet.

You read that right. Ginger N Rye scored her first stakes victory for owner Sagamore Farm in nearly identical circumstances to last year’s Smart N Fancy winner Fair Point, as Sagamore President Hunter Rankin explained.

“The win over the track was huge. We actually tried to enter her into an allowance race yesterday, and it didn’t go. We always just said, ‘if the allowance doesn’t go, we’ll go in the stake,’ ” Rankin said. “There’s some nice fillies in there and we wanted to give Ginger the best chance that she had to win and obviously she ran as good as she can. She was doing great coming into the race, so we were cautiously optimistic that she was going to run well, but in these five-and-a-half races, the break is everything and you’ve got to get the trip and she did. We’re very pleased.”

Ginger N Rye broke sharply in the Smart N Fancy, but jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. let rivals Paquita Conqueta, who raced two paths off the rail, and Chanteline, who ran in the three or four path, battle for the early lead. Pretty Perfection followed in third to the outside. Meanwhile, Santana tugged on the left rein and slid Ginger N Rye down to the hedge. In all four prior turf races on the card, the winners spend most, if not all, of the race on the inside. The trend didn’t slip by Santana.

“Today I noticed the track was fast, I knew we were going to get a fast trip so I sat with her and made one move,” Santana said. “I wanted to save ground this time and just make one move with her.”

Ginger N Rye raced 5 lengths behind a :21.21 quarter-mile. She cut the corner into the stretch and rallied along the hedge to race within a half-length of Chanteline and Pretty Perfection past a :43.58 half. Santana kept Ginger N Rye on the inside path and under right-handed urging, she struck the lead outside the sixteenth pole. Kept to task, Ginger N Rye streaked past the finish post 1 3/4 lengths clear of Miss Ella, who rallied from eleventh to finish second. Wheatfield came from ninth to be third.

Ginger N Rye completed the sprint in 1:00.75, only .29 seconds off the track record set by Lady Shipman in the 2015 Smart N Fancy.

Ginger N Rye is a barn favorite. She is a daughter of More Than Ready and La Milanesa, a Mr. Greeley mare Sagamore paid $565,000 for at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. La Milanesa race 11 times, winning once and earned $50,101. She is a half to millionaire and graded stakes winner Bowman’s Band, stakes-placed College Hill and eight-time winner and $291,676-earner Salic Law.

Ginger N Rye is La Milanesa’s first foal. Since Ginger N Rye was born in March 2012, La Milanesa has produced three other foals. Her 2013 and 2014 foals are still winless and a 2-year-old colt by Bernardini finished fourth on debut at Laurel Park Aug. 19.

“La Milanesa has a ton of family, a ton of pedigree and Ginger N Rye is her first foal,” Rankin said. “We’ve had some colts behind her that just maybe haven’t been as talented as Ginger. Sometimes mares just throw better fillies than colts or better colts than fillies and maybe she’s a filly mare, but she’s a nice mare and still on the farm and doing well.”

Ginger N Rye is a favorite of the Sagamore team. Although she can be challenging to work with at times, patience with her has paid off. After her Smart N Fancy victory, Ginger N Rye is 5-for-16 with $294,973 earned.

“She’s one of the farm favorites because she tries every time, she gives it 110 percent,” Rankin said. “She’s not the biggest, but she’s just a horse you fall in love with because of how hard she tries. She’s really special.

“She can be a little tough. She’s quirky. Her mom is quirky. Her whole family has been quirky,” Rankin continued. “She kind of jiggy-jogs to the track and she throws her head around, but when it comes time to run, she knows what to do and she’s just a special little filly.”

Part of what makes Ginger N Rye so special to the Sagamore team is her connection to trainer Horacio DePaz. She became DePaz’s first winner as a trainer when she won an allowance at Laurel Aug. 22, 2015. DePaz has since become an integral part of Sagamore’s operation. This summer at Saratoga, he is 4-for-13 with one runner-up finish.

“She was Horacio’s first win as a trainer a couple of years ago, so that’s been really fun for her to go on and be successful, especially at a place like Saratoga. Really, really special,” Rankin said.

“Horacio is a really, really good guy and really talented,” Rankin continued. “Great on top of a horse and he gets on them. We feel like that’s an advantage. He’s as good of a rider as you’re going to find and he’s got a great feel for a good horse and he’s got a great feel for when a horse is doing well. He’s been a huge part of the whole thing, maybe THE part of the whole thing. It’s fun to be able to help develop somebody’s career. We hope that by the horses we’re supplying him, that he makes a name for himself and he’s very successful. That’s the goal.”

Sagamore has 11 stalls in Saratoga in Shug McGaughey’s barn and another 40 in Maryland spread between Laurel and the farm in Reisterstown, about 30 minutes northwest of Baltimore. Ginger N Rye trained at the farm before her allowance score July 23, but stayed in Saratoga to prepare for the Smart N Fancy. She logged three half-mile breezes here since Aug. 4.

“When we brought her up to run the first time, we actually just kept her here,” Hankin said. “It’s been a very, very good system for us, making Maryland our base and shipping out. Really fun to be here.”

Rankin isn’t sure where Ginger N Rye will show up next, but was excited at the prospect of breeding her, potentially as early as next season.

“She’s got a big future. She doesn’t have a lot of future left maybe because we may breed her, but hopefully she’s got a big future as a broodmare.”