Over the last six weeks, a young filly by the name of Sippican Harbor has made 3 starts at Saratoga, with each run under dramatically different circumstances.
With trainer Gary Contessa envisioning a future on the turf, the regally-bred daughter of Orb made her debut on July 22nd over two turns in a Maiden Special Weight on the Saratoga grass. Finishing an unthreatening 5th in that race, Contessa continued to look forward, knowing full well that development often takes time for these young Thoroughbreds.
In the following month, Sippican Harbor’s next start would become an unexpected experiment; after heavy rain soaked Saratoga Springs, her planned entry in a second turf race was switched to the main track. A number of her competitors scratched, but Sippican Harbor, with some substantial dirt pedigree to her advantage, would remain.
In what may become the most pivotal race of her young career, the filly led the field throughout the race and demolished the modest group of 5 fillies by an outstanding 17 lengths. Though her competition was nothing noteworthy, a dazzling performance such as that simply couldn’t be ignored.
With that surprise, Contessa took the opportunity to enter his filly in a race which would tell him if his classy filly had the talent he suspected she may, this time against Grade 1 competition.
The Orb daughter would be put to the ultimate test in the Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re IN” G1 Spinaway Stakes on Saratoga’s closing weekend. Her opposition would include a class-laced field that most notably included a debut winning Chasing Yesterday, a half sister to the 2015 Triple Crown winner himself.
Despite her show stopping performance last out, Sippican Harbor went off at modest odds of 16-1 over a field of 11 fellow fillies of promise. With her last race essentially handed to her, the Spinaway would look different for the filly in a number of ways; on a dry track, Joel Rosario and the bay filly were given an education early on. Knocked and blocked at the start, Sippican Harbor was running last, getting a thorough taste of the dirt in just her second start on the surface. As the field made their way around the final turn, running wide, the filly powered down the stretch with an impressive surge of determination that brought victory by two lengths leaving her competitors in her wake.
While 2-year-old races seldom bring an element of shock due to the unknowns of horses of such tender experience, the ease in which Sippican Harbor overcame a less than ideal trip to win a race of exceptional caliber truly turned heads and raised questions as to just how talented this filly may be. Bringing her previous 17 length romp back into consideration, the filly proved substantial versatility in winning a race that ran almost entirely opposite to her previous victory.
Adding another Grade 1 victory to Joel Rosario’s day, Sippican Harbor also made a noteworthy accomplishment for her sire Orb by becoming the first Grade 1 victor for the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner. Most significantly for respected trainer Gary Contessa, this race revealed his 2-year-old filly, whom he incidentally discovered may just be a star of the dirt, is a young student of his stable to be excited about.
Earning automatic berth into the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, team Sippican Harbor set their hopes on achieving greatness on racing’s biggest stage come November. After 2 show-stopping performances, this filly has escalated her status in a unique order of events that may just prove to be monumental in her career.
The future awaits.