It takes a special horse to go to Royal Ascot. Spendarella will be only the sixth starter at Royal Ascot for trainer Graham Motion and the unbeaten filly will carry a lot of hopes on her strong back as she faces some of the world’s best turf horses in the Coronation Stakes on Friday, June 17 at 11:20am ET.
Motion has won many of the biggest races in the United States but has yet to win one at Royal Ascot in his native England.
The list of horses Motion has sent to Royal Ascot up to this point is a compact but accomplished group. His first European starter was a horse that had given him an even bigger first – his first Kentucky Derby win.
In 2013, Animal Kingdom competed in the Queen Anne Stakes. The Kentucky Derby champion and Dubai World Cup winner could only manage an 11th place finish. But, it was a sporting gesture to send the popular colt to try to add another accolade to his resume at a time when United States-based starters were an anomaly at Royal Ascot.
He sent the remarkable, hard-knocking mare Miss Temple City to Royal Ascot three separate times. In 2015, she was fourth in the Coronation Stakes. In 2016, she tried the Duke of Cambridge and finished fourth and then in 2017, it was a less noteworthy result – 11th in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Miss Temple City earned over $1.6 million on the racetrack, defeated male rivals in several stirring performances and still came up short at Royal Ascot.
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The popular filly Sharing, the winner of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, tried her luck in 2020 and turned in the best effort of a Motion-trainee at Royal Ascot to date with a hard-fought runner-up finish. It was the first loss of her career.
Now, Spendarella picks up the mantle.
Undefeated from three starts, she does not have the lofty resume of some of her rivals which will include a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner in Pizza Bianca as well as a trio of Europe’s most formidable fillies – the Irish One Thousand Guineas winner Homeless Songs, the French One Thousand Guineas winner Mangoustine and the Qipco One Thousand Guineas heroine Cachet. What she doesn’t have in experience or marquee accomplishments, she makes up for in raw talent.
Motion has been training horses in the United States for nearly 30 years and has saddled over 2,500 winners. He and his wife, Anita, reside in bucolic Fair Hill in Maryland, minutes away from the peaceful training center. His accomplishments as a horseman extend beyond the racetrack – he is an ardent supporter of Thoroughbred aftercare and enjoys seeing many of his former trainees go on to successful second careers.
In company with Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton, who’s own farm is located in nearby Pennsylvania, Graham and his wife have also gone on to own several of their retired racehorses who are competing at three-day eventing’s highest level. Most recently, Sea of Clouds, known as “Socs” in the barn. Sea of Clouds did not hit the board from two starts on the racetrack but was recently 10th in the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day, a CCI* event.
At Fair Hill, it is a “horses first” mentality. Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Main Sequence has become a member of the family in retirement and enjoys his days turned out in a large, grassy paddock overseeing all of the action. That mentality of putting the horse first, above all else, has been what has made Motion so successful.
While Spendarella may have a tough task ahead of her in the Coronation Stakes, Motion must think she is up to the challenge.
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