People say you can’t go home again. For standout pacing mare Spreester, that adage proved to be untrue last weekend at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Spreester is the daughter of Rodeo Spree who won the award in 2004 for Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at Saratoga. Rodeo Spree spent almost the entirety of her award-winning campaign in the Fillies and Mares Open. Trained by both John Mongeon and Paul Zabielski in her time at the Spa, Rodeo Spree earned just shy of $220,000 in her career before retiring as a broodmare for Zabielski and his wife Kim.
Out of Rodeo Spree came Spreester who wasted no time in displaying the talent that her mama gave her (along with sire American Ideal). Spreester prevailed in her second lifetime start as a two year old in 2013 and went on to spend the majority of her freshman campaign in the Excelsior division of the New York Sire Stakes. Spreester won eight times in ten starts in her first year including a stretch in which she rattled off six consecutive victories before taking home the award for Two Year Old Pacer of the Year at the Spa.
After a year in which she dominated the Excelsiors, Spreester got off to a slow start in her three year old campaign managing just a pair of fourth-place finishes in her first four tries that season. The slow beginning did not wind up being a foreshadowing for what was to come in ’14 for Spreester, however, who was about to become a superstar. The super-sophomore won her first Excelsior start that year and immediately moved up to test her fate against the top three year old fillies in the NY Sire Stakes. Not only did Spreester compete against the top distaffers, she arguably became the best one. The Zabielski stable star had a dominant summer and after finishing second in the $225,000 Sire Stakes Final, debuted in the local Open for fillies and mares. She showed herself well even against the aged mares at the track, finishing second twice in her four cracks at $17,000 feature. All told, Spreester earned just dollars shy of $200,000 in her three year old campaign after which she was named Three Year Old Pacer of the Year at the Spa becoming the first horse in over a decade (since Alpine Dandy in ’02-’03) to go back-to-back as Two Year Old and Three Year Old Pacer.
In 2015, Zabielski sent Rodeo Spree to all-world trainer Ron Burke who raced her at Yonkers for a few months before sending her back to Zabielski in the fall. After a couple of scores in the local “winners over” for fillies and mares, Spreester logged her first Open win at Saratoga in November and wound up going back-to-back in the local feature with Jimmy Devaux in the sulky. Following her $98,491 campaign as a four year old, Spreester was sold by Zabielski and competed in 2016 almost exclusively at the Meadows in Ohio. The star distaffer continued to do what she does and thrived for her new connections as well. In ’16, Spreester won thirteen races and hit the board in 28 out of 37 starts en route to amassing over $195,000, setting her lifetime mark of 1:51.2 on the five-eighths mile track at the Meadows along the way. The mare kicked off her ’17 campaign already with more than a half million dollars in earnings and spent last year competing in the “Preferred” and Opens at the Meadows and at Northfield Park. Though she tallied the lowest win total of her career (four), Spreester still hit the board 24 times in her 35 starts and enjoyed another six-figure campaign, earning just over $100,000 in ‘17.
Spreester made her 2018 debut following one qualifier on March 17th at Northfield Park. After that start, the mare was re-acquired by Zabielski and made her way east to Saratoga. Could Saratoga’s leading trainer in 1997 have made the acquisition with thoughts of breeding Spreester just as he did with her mother Rodeo Spree? Perhaps but it certainly seems like that still at just the age of seven, Spreester might have a lot of racing left in her before she may or may not be pointed towards the breeding shed. On Friday night, the mare who began her illustrious career at Saratoga back in 2013, returned to the track to compete in the $12,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Drawing post six in the seven-horse feature, Spreester was one of the longest shots on the board, dismissed at odds of 19-1 with driver Frank Coppola Jr. in the sulky. One attribute that Spreester always possessed was versatility. She often used early speed to be in position to do her damage but Spreester also had the ability to come from off the pace. And on Friday, close she did.
Not only did Spreester come away seventh and last in her return to the Spa but the seven year old was last at the half, last at three quarters and last at the head of the stretch! The fractions in the race were sizzling after a hotly contested start and though that certainly benefited the race’s closers, Spreester’s move in the stretch was almost unprecedented. We almost never see a horse at the Open level (or any level really) be last at the head of the stretch and prevail. That’s what Spreester did in her return to town as she wasted no time re-establishing herself among the track’s top lady pacers and reminding us what she can do. The win for Spreester, which came in 1:54, was the 39th of her career in 131 starts. What a win percentage and what a mare. She’s still finding ways to win against top flight competition, whether it be in Ohio or once again in her return to the Spa. With earnings of just shy of $670,000 in her career, the two-time local award winner could very well become a force among local ladies once again as Spreester wasted little time in reminding us what she can do and where her home is. The Zabielski trainee drew post position three for this Friday night’s installment of the Fillies and Mares Open as she looks to prove that last weekend’s victory was no fluke and that she is in fact here to stay as a force among ladies at the Spa where she has had so much success over the course of her sensational career.
Live racing takes place every Thursday and Sunday afternoon with matinees beginning at 12:15pm and on Friday and Saturday evenings with action under the lights starting at 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!