Royal Spa defeats winners March 2 at Oaklawn Park (Coady Photography)
NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Trainer Rodolphe Brisset is contemplating a return to Aqueduct Racetrack for two-time winner Royal Spa in the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle on April 8. The nine-furlong test for sophomore fillies offers 100-40-30-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-five finishers.
Royal Spa was a first-out winner despite lunging at the start in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden sprint on November 18 at Churchill Downs just 15 days prior to fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Demoiselle on December 3 going nine furlongs at Aqueduct.
The Violence dark bay, a Breffni Farm Kentucky homebred, defeated winners going six furlongs last out on March 2 at Oaklawn Park. There, she broke alertly away from her inside post under Ricardo Santana, Jr. and saved ground behind the top flight of runners before shooting through an opening along the rail and powering home a 1 3/4-length winner. The effort garnered a career-best 78 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We came back sprinting just because we were short a couple of works. She was fit enough. We just felt like sprinting was a better spot for her than a mile and a sixteenth off the layoff,” Brisset said. “Ricardo did a great job because she had the one-hole and she actually broke cleanly that time. She put herself in perfect position to win the race. The rail opened and she exploded on the inside and won pretty easily.”
Brisset spoke of the desire to get his filly in the gate for the Kentucky Oaks on May 5 with either the Gazelle or the Grade 3 Fantasy on April 1 at Oaklawn Park as her likely next target.
“We want to give her the opportunity to qualify for the Oaks. If she’s good enough, I don’t know yet. If she wants to go that far, I don’t know either. But the only way to find out is to run,” said Brisset, who previously sent out Oaks contenders Positive Spirit [DNF, 2019] and Yuugiri [13th, 2022]. “I thought her first race was pretty good. I got pretty aggressive running her back in two weeks off the win going from six and a half [furlongs] to a mile and an eighth. We were trying to get some black type. We like her and we thought she would be competitive against that group that day.”
Brisset said the biggest improvement Royal Spa has made from two to three has been her effectiveness from the gate.
After her troubled debut maiden victory, she broke slowly again in the Demoiselle before being hustled by Joel Rosario to second position into the first turn. She raced an even second down the backstretch before launching a bid in upper stretch, only to be passed by the top-three runners – Julia Shining, Affirmative Lady and Gambling Girl – inside the eighth-pole.
“In her maiden she broke terrible and in the Demoiselle she didn’t break well either,” Brisset said. “Joel kind of used her and ended up taking her back after using her because the speed on the outside was forcing her. It wasn’t the smoothest trip and at the quarter-pole turning for home, she dug in pretty well and only gave up her place at the eighth pole. It was a lot to ask of her. We gave her some time and she changed physically. She put some weight on and grew. I’ve been able to breeze her a couple of times myself at Oaklawn.”
Brisset went on to speak highly of Royal Spa’s sire Violence, who is also the sire of last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Colt and leading Kentucky Derby hopeful Forte as well as Grade 3 Gotham-winner Raise Cain. Violence, a Grade 1-winning son of Medaglia d’Oro, also produced one of Brisset’s first graded stakes winners in Talk Veuve to Me.
“He was a good stallion his first few years and slowed down for a couple years, but he’s coming back pretty strongly,” Brisset said. “He was a very good racehorse and he gives you a very pretty horse. He can give you any kind of horse.”
Royal Spa is out of the graded stakes placed Mineshaft mare Bodacious Babe, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-winner Sippican Harbor.