Bloodlines: ‘More Improvement To Come’ For Spinaway Winner Sippican Harbor

The result of the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga was a positive milestone for second-crop sire Orb (by Malibu Moon), whose 2-year-old daughter Sippican Harbor came from last to first and won the stakes by two lengths.

This filly had won her maiden in masterful style by 17 lengths in her previous start for trainer Gary Contessa and owner Lee Pokoik, and she became her sire’s first G1 winner in the Spinaway.

A winner in good company at 2 who came on strongly at 3 to win the G1 Kentucky Derby, Orb has been one of the most popular young sires with both breeders and buyers at major sales the past couple of years. But the appetite of buyers does not last unless there are immediate top-tier results from a stallion’s racers. As a result, there has been a perceptibly diminishing enthusiasm for the Orb stock through the sales season this year.

That may reverse course now for the handsome bay who stands at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. In addition to Sippican Harbor, Orb’s second-crop daughter Malocchio dead-heated for second in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth on Saturday.

Trainer Gary Contessa said the plans for the Spinaway winner are to go “straight to the Breeders’ Cup [Juvenile Fillies]. I’ve run her three times during the Saratoga meet, and I believe the two months to the Breeders’ Cup will suit her well. Her first start was a mile and a sixteenth, and believe me, she should have won. Her second race was rained off the turf, and she won on a wet track at Saratoga by 17 lengths, leading all the way. Then she showed her versatility by coming from dead last in this race and having a big kick through the stretch.

“She relishes distance and will legitimately run all day,” said a trainer who clearly relishes his position for the championship race.

In addition to training Sippican Harbor, Contessa also picked out the filly from the Dromoland Farm consignment at last year’s Saratoga select yearling sale for $260,000, which placed her in the top 20 percent of sales yearlings by her sire in 2017.

Contessa said, “Every year, I buy four or five yearlings for Lee Pokoik to resell, and if they don’t sell, we keep them and race them. I bought her at Saratoga last year, pinhooked her into the OBS March sale, where she brought only a high bid of $110,000. We weren’t going to let her go for that.”

Nor should they. Sippican Harbor had worked really well, getting a furlong in :10 1/5 and showing a stride length of slightly more than 24 feet, plus good internals that scored her a BreezeFig of 74, one of the best figs of the juvenile sales season.

“I thought she worked well,” Contessa said, “and Lee said, ‘We’ll race her.’ Aren’t we lucky to still have her.”

With a filly who will be among the favorites for the BC Juvenile Fillies, the owner and trainer are in an enviable position. Contessa added, “She was a little immature in March, not real big or heavy; you had to look a little beyond the norms to like this filly. I look for a horse that does everything well but doesn’t look that great. She’s been coming to hand ever since she came to the track, and there’s more improvement to come.”

Bred in Kentucky by Justin Spaeth, Kalvert Spaeth, and Equine Equity Partners, Sippican Harbor is out of the Deputy Minister mare Blossomed. Unraced herself, Blossomed is a half-sister to G3 stakes winner Cinemine (Mining) and listed stakes winner Flick (Dehere). The Spinaway winner’s third and fourth dams are stakes winners French Flick (Silent Screen) and Tres Jolie (Herbager).

The fifth dam is the Nasrullah mare Leallah, who was champion 2-year-old filly of 1956 in voting by the Daily Racing Form; the Thoroughbred Racing Association track secretaries placed Romanita as divisional champion that year, with Leallah second.

A deciding factor in the voting was probably the 1956 Spinaway, which Leallah missed because trainer Mack Miller scratched her after expecting the track to be muddy from overnight rains. Last Saturday, her descendant Sippican Harbor went over the muddy track at the Spa and claimed victory.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank’s lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.

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