Riding High

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As the Grade 1 Spinaway came to its boiling point Saturday evening and Sippican Harbor tipped out from behind nine horses at the top of the stretch, trainer Gary Contessa went full jockey while watching the race on a television monitor just inside the clubhouse from the winner’s circle.

He whipped, drove, pushed, yelled and finished with a fist pump. Luckily for him, his jockey Joel Rosario stayed far calmer.

“I went to the whip a little early, I went to the whip at the quarter pole,” said Contessa. “Joel didn’t go to the whip until the eighth pole. That was incredible to watch. She was wide and she’s slowly closing the gap. Joel needed a little help with that one and I was more than happy to help out.”

As it turned out, Rosario and Sippican Harbor needed nothing as they rallied from well back in an 11-horse field to win the Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 lengths. The daughter of Orb covered 7 furlongs in 1:23.72, while leaving – among others – stakes winner Catherinethegreat, Baby Nina and Restless Rider plus American Pharoah’s half-sister Chasing Yesterday behind. The winner paid $34, and keyed big tickets with 5-2 second choice Restless Rider second, 68-1 shot Cassies Dreamer third and the 126-1 Bella Ciao fourth.

The victory confirmed the promise Sippican Harbor showed in a 17-length maiden win here Aug. 12, gave Contessa the second Grade 1 of his career (and first in New York) and handed Pokoik his first Grade 1 as an owner. Purchased for $260,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga yearling sale in 2017, the winner is named for a body of water just across Buzzards Bay from Cape Cod in Massachusetts. She’ll be headed the opposite direction to Kentucky this fall after earning a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“We’re going to the Breeders’ Cup,” Pokoik told Contessa in the winner’s circle.

“I love Churchill Downs in November, there’s no place I’d rather be,” Contessa said later.

Sippican Harbor just might take them there. She yawned through a crowded paddock scene and didn’t flinch when jostled and bumped around just after the break. Rosario let her find her stride and was 10th and wide up the backstretch as Guacamole and Nonna Madeline took the field through an opening quarter-mile split of :22.68. The winner was widest of all as Rosario went to a second set of goggles just before the bend, then angled in to save ground around the turn.

To read the rest of the Spinaway recap, download the final digital edition of the The Saratoga Special for 2018 presented by EasyFixStable Solutions.