Robin Sparkles, Vintage Hollywood handle muddy conditions for Showcase Day stakes wins

Monday, May 31st, 2021

Robin Sparkles hangs tough late to win the Mount Vernon on Big Apple Showcase Day. NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Mother Nature tried to rain on the Big Apple Showcase card’s parade by forcing both of Monday’s grass stakes to the main track but in the end the turf horses still put on a show worth remembering.

Robin Sparkles proved to be a rising star on the NYRA circuit with four wins in seven starts before Monday, but took it to an extra level in her eighth start to earn her first stakes success. The 4-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality was happy to go lead a few strides from the gate in the $121,250 Mount Vernon Stakes under Jose Ortiz and made all the pace in the 1-mile event.

Kilkea never let her get too far ahead but never put much pressure on her as they put up fractions of :23.36 and :46.45 for the first half-mile. Kilkea started to fade as the field rounded into the straight and while 1:11.10 for 6 furlongs flashed on the board, it looked like Robin Sparkles would have an easy win. The tide changed quick in the lane, however.

As the field entered the final furlong, it was clear Robin Sparkles didn’t have much left to give while Kilkea found another burst of energy. Robin Sparkles had a big enough margin in hand to keep her lead and the win by three quarters of a length. Four of the five horses in the race were close behind the winner with Kilkea beating Vienna Code home by a half-length and Light In The Sky another half-length behind that foe in a time of 1:38.47.

“She was slowing down the last sixteenth, but it’s also her first time going a mile,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think she liked the track. It was a huge, gutsy effort. They came home really slow. I thought somebody was going to pass me, but everybody was kind of in the same boat, grass horses running on dirt. I got lucky.“

Trained by Bruce Brown for Michael Schrader, Robin Sparkles’ only finish out of the top two was in her debut last July at Belmont Park. The trainer admitted that a big part of her run Monday was to see if she could handle this kind of test when she’s shown to prefer turf.

“Jose said that she is much, much better on turf,” Brown said. “If another scenario like this came up then we would, but he said she’s light years better on grass. We just wanted to see if she was good enough to get the job done against this short field.”

A $30,000 purchase by Linda Rice at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale, Robin Sparkles is one of three winners out of the Dehere mare My Sparky. A five-time winner, My Sparky is a half-sister to the stakes winning Race Home and is one of eight winners for her own dam.

My Sparky spent her whole racing career on the NYRA circuit with five wins and four other top three finishes from 17 starts. Retiring in 2014, the mare was purchased by Robin Sparkles’ breeder Hibiscus Stables at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale for $5,700 while in-foal to Frost Giant.

The late mare foaled a Frost Giant colt the following year with Cold Sober winning two of his 18 starts. The following year came the winning Majestic Warrior filly G’s Warrior before Robin Sparkles was born at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham in 2017. My Sparky’s final foal is an unnamed 3-year-old filly by the late Effinex.

Vintage Hollywood makes successful stakes debut in off-the-turf Kingston Monday at Belmont. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

While Robin Sparkles struggled at the end of her race, the 6-year-old Vintage Hollywood proved to love the slop in the $108,750 Kingston Stakes. Making his stakes debut in his 32nd start, Vintage Hollywood couldn’t have asked for an easier introduction than taking on just two others in the 1 1/16-mile race moved to the dirt.

Vintage Hollywood took the lead out of the gate but was content to let Mo Ready pass him in the opening furlong with all three horses within about a length of each other. It was a steady pace for the trio with early fractions of :23.77 and :47.66 and jockey Dylan Davis asked Vintage Hollywood to put some pressure on around the turn. Three-quarters of the way around the turn, Vintage Hollywood was tired of waiting on the leader and took command.

Control Group tried to challenge the eventual winner at the top of the stretch but had no hope of putting in a serious challenge, with Vintage Hollywood opening up 3 lengths in only a matter of strides. Davis gave him a few taps in the stretch but nothing else was needed to gallop to victory. The gelding pricked his ears in the final sixteenth and stopped the clock in 1:44.30. Control Group finished 5 1/4 lengths back in second with Mo Ready trailing home 27 1/4 lengths behind the leader in third.

“He broke on top,” Davis said. “I allowed him to get into his stride. Once I turned for home, and I got into him, he picked up again and found another gear, and then I knew it was over. It was fantastic. He was there for me the whole way.”

The Kingston proved extra special for Davis, who was riding for the first time in New York after injury forced him to the sidelines earlier this year.

“Being my first day back in New York, and to win a stakes, it’s great,” he said. “It feels special. I did go over to Monmouth and get some winners, but there’s nothing like being at home. It’s fantastic.”

Trained by Orlando Noda as part of the Noda Brothers’ stable of runners, Vintage Hollywood won for the sixth time to take his earnings to $316,945 with 13 other top three finishes. A $5,000 weanling at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale and $10,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, Vintage Hollywood was claimed by Noda in January 2020 for $16,000.

Foaled at Village Farm in Gilbertsville, the Country Day gelding was bred by Harry Landry out of the stakes-winning Tactical Cat mare Hollywood And Wine. That mare was purchased by Landry for $6,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky February mixed sale while carrying this runner. Vintage Hollywood is the second stakes winner for Hollywood And Wine after the Petionville gelding Caribbean Cowboy and one of five winners from six to race.

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