Spain Burg, who had been plying her trade off the beaten path in the French provinces, suddenly burst onto the radar in the “Win and You’re In” Rockfel (G2) at Newmarket. Commanding $1,686,150 thereafter at the Arqana Arc Sale, the recent import now brings the connections of 2013 Classic (G1) hero Mucho Macho man back to the Breeders’ Cup.
Although by soft-going aficionado Sageburg, a son of 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) star and transatlantic champion Johannesburg, Spain Burg has apparently inherited her paternal grandsire’s ground versatility. Her dam, the Anabaa Blue mare Spain Blues, was likewise effective on a range of ground conditions, albeit at a much lower level.
Trained by Xavier Thomas Demeaulte (who also conditioned her dam), Spain Burg showed admirable poise for a newcomer to split foes and rally up the inside to score at Bordeaux le Bouscat. In her second try over the same course and five-furlong distance, she set the pace, but was mowed down by Boos. That implied Spain Burg was better with a target, a hypothesis proven when she stalked and pounced over six furlongs at Toulouse.
Spain Burg had now found her preferred style, and she hasn’t put a foot wrong since. She stepped up to stakes company in the Criterium du Bequet at Bordeaux’s La Teste de Buch, where she switched off early and rolled late. Spain Burg had the satisfaction of avenging her only career loss, for Boos was only fourth here. The useful Boos has since gone on to win again, and she missed by a head in the October 14 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte (G2).
Nevertheless, understandable form questions surrounded the provincial shipper when Spain Burg alighted in Newmarket for the Rockfel. On paper, she had something to prove against the likes of odds-on favorite Fair Eva, and accordingly went off at an unheralded 14-1. But Spain Burg traveled well at every stage, picked up in taking fashion, and simply dismissed Fair Eva.
Although you can quibble about exactly how far Fair Eva was off her best, there was nothing flukey about Spain Burg’s performance.
Fair Eva, who hasn’t lived up to the excitement generated by her Princess Margaret (G3) romp, was coming off a third to Queen Kindly and Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) contender Roly Poly in the Lowther (G2). If you take the Lowther and Rockfel as equivalent efforts by Fair Eva (a contestable assertion), Spain Burg’s on the same level as Aidan O’Brien’s Roly Poly.
Correlating formlines is inexact if not hazardous, especially when you’re dealing with juveniles at different distances and points on the developmental curve. But the others in the Rockfel give the form a generally solid look, and Spain Burg could hardly have left a better impression.
Hence the bidding war for Spain Burg at Arqana, with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing ultimately prevailing. Now owned by Reeves in partnership with R.A. Hill Stable, Spain Burg has been transferred to Kathy Ritvo, who conditioned Mucho Macho Man for another Reeves partnership.
Spain Burg coped beautifully with the left-handed turn when working at Keeneland on October 28, changing leads at the right time both entering the turn and exiting it as though she’d done it all her life.
The one caveat is that Spain Burg’s original trainer planned to give her time off after the Rockfel. Instead of going on holiday, she’s now presented with an even more challenging task than at Newmarket. She might well be up to it regardless, and Frankie Dettori is sticking with her.
Photo courtesy of Breeders’ Cup via Twitter