SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Michael Schrader’s Robin Sparkles made every pole a winning one under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Caress for older fillies and mares sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs over the Mellon turf at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Bruce Brown, Robin Sparkles arrived at her second graded test from a third-place finish behind speedy returning rival Bout Time in the Goldwood on June 25 at Monmouth Park. Her other start this year was a victory in an off-the-turf edition of the Politely in May over the Oceanport oval in her first start back from a seven-month layoff.
Robin Sparkles, who returned $44 for a $2 win wager, is now the third horse bred in the Empire State to win a graded stakes at this year’s Saratoga meet, following scores by City Man in the Grade 3 Forbidden Apple and Down Royal in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial over the hurdles.
Brown said it was rewarding to see Robin Sparkles make the grade after some setbacks last year.
“Last year, she had some bad luck and different things going on. She was very in-and-out as far as how she was doing, but she’s really come back better and better each start,” said Brown. “The last race was down in Monmouth and that was a suicidal kind of pace, but she bounced out of it real good and has been eating the bottom out of the feed tub and doing great.”
Robin Sparkles broke sharply and was hustled from post 6 by Castellano, establishing the lead as post-time favorite Caravel was off slow and settled on the rail in the middle of the 10-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 21.54 seconds over the firm turf.
As Bout Time gave chase and tired to the outside of Robin Sparkles, Caravel and Miss J McKay had traffic troubles and were forced to steady with the field approaching the turn. The ground-saving closer Souper Sensational swung widest of all exiting the turn and made her bid for the lead, while Robin Sparkles maintained her advantage by three lengths at the top of the stretch.
Robin Sparkles continued to find more under urging from Castellano, but Souper Sensational loomed under a strong ride from Dylan Davis and gained with every stride. Though Lady Edith provided another threat down the center of the lane, Robin Sparkles dug in gamely and would not be denied the victory, fending off the furious bid from Souper Sensational by a head in a final time of 1:01.98.
Lady Edith finished third a half-length behind Souper Sensational and a neck ahead of her troubled stablemate Miss J McKay. Star Devine, Bout Time, Kept Waiting, Tobys Heart and Caravel completed the order of finish.
Castellano said Robin Sparkles runs her best races when she’s the one to watch.
“I really like the horse and the way she did it today. The horse is a free-running horse. She only likes to go to the lead,” said Castellano. “She broke so well out of the gate, I took a big advantage and put her on the lead and tried to slow down the pace the best I could. I like the way she finished. She is such a game horse. Today, she put in 100 percent and Bruce did such a good job.”
Brown, who teamed up with Castellano to score three stakes victories with fellow turf sprinter Spring to the Sky, praised the veteran rider’s Hall of Fame talents.
“He, especially on the grass, is one of the best and if you have him, you know you are going to get a fair shot,” said Brown. “He rode my good sprinter Spring to the Sky and won a few races on him and I told him in the paddock, ‘let’s try to do that and get her out there.’ She doesn’t like to be held too tight, just loose reign and nurse her around there and that’s exactly what she did.”
Robin Sparkles was bred in New York by Hibiscus Stables and earned $110,000 in victory, improving her record to 16-9-2-3 with total purse earnings of $530,668. She finished third in this event last year behind Caravel and picked up a stakes win earlier that summer in an off-the-turf running of the Mount Vernon against state-breds at Belmont Park. The consistent daughter of Elusive Quality has finished on the board in 14-of-16 outings.
Davis said Souper Sensational gave her all in her valiant runner-up effort.
“I thought it was a great trip. She gave me 100 percent,” said Davis. “I just needed a couple more jumps. She ran a great race.”
Live racing continues Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card, featuring the Grade 2, $200,000 Shuvee in Race 5. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Mary Eddy/NYRA Press Office
Main photo: Robin Sparkles getting the grade in the G3 Caress (Janet Garaguso)