Leave No Trace gets a jog at Keeneland. Coady Photography
WellSpring Stables’ filly is bred to go long with speed and sprinting skills
Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited
LEXINGTON, Ky.—WellSpring Stables’ Leave No Trace has proven she has speed and can sprint. In the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Friday she will face the next test for a young horse going two turns for the first time.
The daughter of Outwork by Uncle Mo out of the Good Journey mare Tanquerray trained by Phil Serpe, drew post 13 with jockey Jose Lezcano in the 14-horse field in the 1 1/16m race.
“She’s certainly bred to go long, and I think her running style will fit, so I’m fine with it. I like it,” Serpe said. “If anything,I think it’s going to benefit her, the two turns versus the one-turn mile. So, we’re good with that.”
WellSpring, the racing operation of Dr. George Vukovich and his wife Laura, purchased Leave No Trace for $40,000 as a yearling at the October 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale, and turned her over to Serpe, the veteran New York-based trainer. She easily prevailed going 5½ f in a restricted maiden race at Saratoga on July 20 and showed she could be a Breeders’ Cup horse with somewhat of a surprise victory in the historic Spinaway, run at 7f on the final weekend of the Saratoga meet. In the one-turn, 1m “Win and You’re In” Frizette at Aqueduct on Oct. 2, she ended up third to Chocolate Gelato and You’re My Girl – both of whom are in the Juvenile Fillies field – over a sloppy, sealed track.
“It certainly didn’t help hitting the starting gate,” Serpe said. “More than anything, I don’t really think she loved that track condition, to tell you the truth. We’re just going to leave it at that. I just don’t think she finished like she usually does. There’s not much more we can go on other than that. We’ll just move forward after that race.”
While it was clear to Serpe and his staff that Leave No Trace had talent, her victory by 1 ½ lengths at 14-1 over favorite Wonder Wheel in the Grade 1 Spinaway was a big day for the stable.
“We certainly had no expectations, nor did anybody else, with a maiden 2-year-old of running in or winning a Spinaway Stakes,” he said. “We felt very strong about her winning her first race. She was just working sensational works before we left Belmont. And the same thing when we got to Saratoga. They write these maiden auction races which made her eligible to run in a race not stacked with million-dollar horses. We felt very good about her chances of winning. I think the way she did win, kind of showed us that there was more there than we even thought about earlier. But they’re young horses and you just have to kind of take it step by step and see how they go.”
Vukovich has been a breeder and an owner for many years, but the Spinaway was his first graded stakes victory. The Spinaway was Serpe’s first graded win in 11 years and his first Grade 1 win in 29 years since Birdonthewire prevailed in the 1993 Vosburgh. Leave No Trace is Vukovich’s first Breeders’ Cup starter and the Serpe’s fourth overall, but first since 2011.
Serpe has been training for Vukovich for about five years ago, an unexpected bonus for helping out his longtime friend Jim Ryerson, who was training for Vukovich.
“Jim had a horse that was a grass horse, He doesn’t really go to Florida and asked if I wanted to take the horse,” Serpe said. “That’s how I met Dr. Vukovich. And it all just kind of blossomed from there. So, whatever they have, they send half to me and half to Jimmy. He’s the reason we met them in the first place.”
Serpe started training in 1984 and according to Equibase stats through Nov. 1, he has saddled 1,063 winners from 7,900 starters and his horses have earned $33 million in purse money. He trained for the prominent New York owner-breeder Carl Lizza, who won many New York Racing Association meet titles with his Flying Zee Stable. Lizza’s unexpected death in July 2011 had a serious impact on Serpe’s business. He lost his major client just before the start of the Saratoga season and within five months the Flying Zee stock was dispersed in a sale.
The connection with WellSpring has been a significant addition to the Serpe stable. In 2021, Serpe saddled WellSpring’s Safe Conduct to a victory in the historic Queen’s Plate, Canada’s most important race. This year, Leave No Trace emerged and has earned $258,650.
Where once he routinely had 40 horses in this care, Serpe now has 18 as he competes against huge operations on the tough NYRA circuit.
“In my stable, we’re not afraid to run against anybody at any time if we’ve got the horse, because this is horse racing,” he said. “If we’ve got the horse, we can beat anybody. It’s a matter of getting your hands on those horses. We haven’t been in that spot, but that’s just how things are. I’m very satisfied with what we’ve done and what I’ve done with my career. That’s the way things are.”