Juddmonte Farms' Emollient dazzled at Keeneland this spring when she won the Central Bank Ashland Stakes by nine powerful lengths in her Polytrack debut. Since her dominating performance at the Lexington oval, the $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes has been part of the plan for the 3-year-old Empire Maker filly, who returns to the scene of her career-best effort Oct. 6.
Juddmonte has sponsored the 1 ⅛-mile Spinster since 2005, but has never won the race, which will mark Emollient's first start against older fillies and mares. She is the only sophomore in the field of 11 and carries 121 pounds, three fewer than her elders.
Other contenders include Grade 1 winners On Fire Baby and Byrama, grade II winners Summer Applause and Open Water, and Grade 3 winners Wine Princess, Closing Range, and Sisterly Love.
With a victory in the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park, Emollient would become just the fourth horse to win the Ashland and the Spinster. The others are Doubledogdare (1956), Optimistic Gal (1976) and Take Charge Lady (2002).
Emollient's impressive performance this spring came six days after she ran fifth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks on dirt for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. She next was sixth in the May 17 Black Eyed Susan Stakes, also on dirt, at Pimlico Race Course.
"She showed us she didn't want any part of the dirt anymore," assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset said of that performance. And Emollient proved her class when she then shipped to Southern Califorina to win the July 13 American Oaks on turf at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Given a rest until the Sept. 14 Garden City Stakes on the grass at Belmont Park, Emollient finished eighth under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith when gearing up for her autumn campaign.
"She didn't run a bad race," Brisset remarked. "There was too much cut in the grass, and she didn't care for the ground. We could see she wasn't comfortable. Mike said she never really picked up the bridle like usual. So now she has a race under her belt."
Smith will be back in the irons aboard Emollient from post 5; he won the Spinster in 1995 with Inside Information while Mott also has a single Spinster victory, with Mushka in 2009.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Byrama and Anita Cauley's On Fire Baby are two of the prime rivals in this spot.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Byrama won the 1 ⅛-mile Vanity Handicap on the all-weather track at Hollywood Park in June. She was third in the Aug. 3 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and finished seventh last time out Aug. 25 against the boys in the TVG Pacific Classic, both on Del Mar 's Polytrack. In her lone Keeneland appearance, the 4-year-old British-bred daughter of Byron was a fast-closing second in the seven-furlong Madison Stakes this spring. Rosie Napravnik will ride from post 6.
On Fire Baby won the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park this spring for trainer Gary Hartlage. She has raced once at Keeneland, finishing fifth in her second career start in the 2011 Alcibiades after breaking from post position 13. Regular rider Joe Johnson will be aboard from post 11; in her last outing, the 4-year-old Smoke Glacken filly was fourth in the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Open Water, a 4-year-old by Include , was fifth in the Personal Ensign for Southern Equine Stable and partners. She got her Grade 2 win for Eric Guillot in the May 18 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap going 1 1/16 miles on Hollywood's all-weather track.
Summer Applause won the Top Flight Handicap on the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack back in March, and recently took the Lady's Secret Stakes on the Monmouth Park dirt for trainer Chad Brown. The 4-year-old daughter of Harlan's Holiday broke her maiden on the all-weather track at Woodbine in 2011.
St. George Farm Racing's Closing Range, a 4-year-old by After Market, looks to get back on track after a sixth in the Sept. 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap on Sept. 2 at Del Mar. Her Grade 3 victory came in the 2012 La Prevoyante Handicap at Calder Casino & Race Course; before the Yellow Ribbon she won the Osunitas Stakes for trainer Phillip Oliver going 1 1/16 miles on the Del Mar lawn.
Wine Princess tries Polytrack for the first time for Steve Margolis and owner Becky Winemiller. The 4-year-old by Ghostzapper out of champion Azeri took the Monmouth Oaks last year and was recently second in the Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs off a runner-up finish to Joyful Victory in the Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth.
Completing the field are Ken and Sarah Ramsey's allowance winner Sisterhood, a 4-year-old by Kitten's Joy , who makes her first start for Margolis, and allowance winner Hard to Resist, runner-up by half a length in the Sept. 1 Adoration Stakes going a mile at Del Mar for trainer Peter Eurton. The latter, a 5-year-old daughter of Johannesburg, travels from California to make her first start outside the Golden State for a partnership group that includes Bran Jam Stable, Ciaglia Racing, and the Estate of Frank Alesia.