With undefeated start, Great Spirit conjures up memories

In each of her first three starts for trainer Crystal Pickett and owner-breeder Jill Daniel, Great Spirit has given every indication that she is capable of emulating her late, great half-brother, Dr. Feelgood. But although even her conditioner admits the flattering comparisons are premature at this stage of her career.

March 25, over a rain-soaked, sealed track rated muddy, Great Spirit easily lived up to her role as the 3-5 favorite in a one-turn allowance dash for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares when she surged to command on the far turn and drew clear from her rivals in the lane to an eight-length score under Jose Montano.

The sophomore daughter of Great Notion improved to three-for-three in her young career by getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 51.77.

“I was pretty confident in her going into the race,” said Pickett, who notched the 500th win of her training career when Great Spirit splashed home a convincing winner on Saturday night. “This was the first time that she was able to run two races close to one another. She won last summer at two, but then I stopped with her early because I just thought time at the farm would do her more good than racing. She got bigger and more mature over the winter and she’s been training great since she returned.”

Great Spirit won at first asking last July 22 in a one-turn maiden special weight dash for juvenile fillies while getting the 4 1/2-furlongs in 53.47. After an extended vacation she returned on March 4 to defeat allowance foes by nearly a length in 52.99. 

Great Spirit
Great Spirit is 3-for-3 in her young career after winning an allowance. Photo by Coady Photography.

With that race under her belt, Great Spirit conjured up memories of Dr. Feelgood with her facile score in Saturday’s contest.

The late Dr. Feelgood, a son of Fiber Sonde, won the first four starts of his career, including the $75,000 Robert Leavitt Memorial for state-bred three-year-olds and concluded his career with 13 wins from 15 tries, earning just shy of $300,000. He honed his reputation in one-turn sprints, going undefeated in 10 4 1/2-furlong dashes locally. He suffered a catastrophic injury while training in 2020.

Great Spirit still has much to prove in order to be considered along the same lines as her half-brother, but Pickett is eager for the journey.

“She’s a big filly, but she’s pretty well behaved,” Pickett said. “I get on her most mornings and she gets over the track really well. I was glad to get my 500th win with her. Not only is she the half-sister to Dr. Feelgood, but the owner [Jill Daniel} has been one of my best clients and she loves horses. I’ve also won a lot of races with Jose [Montano]. He’s always done well for me.”

Pickett has won 500 races from 4,542 stars. She is coming off a career-best year that saw her win 51 races and notch purse earnings of more than $1.1 million.

Having watched her talented sophomore filly win both of her seasonal outings, Pickett indicated that Great Spirit’s next start would likely be the $75,000 It’s Binn Too Long Stakes for West Virginia-bred three-year-old fillies on April 29. There are potentially several more stakes on the horizon for Great Spirit at Charles Town this spring, summer and fall. The daughter of Great Notion is also eligible to the Maryland Million at Laurel Park, although both it and the West Virginia Breeders’ Classics take place on October 14.

“She’s dual-eligible to the West Virginia race and the Maryland Million, but it’s disappointing that they’re on the same day this year and not two weeks apart,” Pickett said. “But there are going to be plenty of spots for her between now and then. She’s got plenty of early speed like Dr. Feelgood, but it’s too early to really compare them. I mean, he was so good for so many years and he never got beat going 4 1/2 furlongs. It’s sad that we lost him too soon, but every time she wins it reminds me and everyone else of him.”