With summer having concluded, and with the fall season of Breeders’ Cup prep races underway, I thought now would be a great time to go back and highlight five two-year-old colts that turned in impressive maiden victories during the Saratoga meet. Time will tell what the future holds for these exciting young prospects, but all have been nominated to major stakes races and look like contenders for the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races. In alphabetical order, these five horses are…
Could this colt be the next star for Pioneerof the Nile, sire of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah? It’s certainly possible! After finishing sixth in his debut at Saratoga on August 17th, Championofthenile stepped up with a huge performance on September 4th to win a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in dominating fashion. With Jose Ortiz in the saddle, Championofthenile got off to a quick start and went straight to the lead, carved out fractions of :22.06 and :45.20, then drew off powerfully to win by six lengths under a hand ride. What a performance! Best of all, the final time was a rapid 1:15.71 seconds, which translated to an impressive Beyer speed figure of 94. Trained by Linda Rice, Championofthenile breezed five furlongs in 1:02.22 on September 20th at Belmont and has been nominated to the October 3rd Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont, which could mark his stakes debut.
Graham Motion may be best known as a trainer of turf horses, but he did win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom, and Rafting looks like a colt that could send Motion down the Derby trail once again. After finishing seventh in an 8.5-furlong maiden special weight on turf to begin his career, Motion made the somewhat surprising move of shifting Rafting to dirt and cutting him back in distance to seven furlongs. The strategy paid off with a big performance, as Rafting tracked fractions of :23.31 and :46.80 before running his final three furlongs in a strong :36 4/5 to win decisively by 2 1/4 lengths in the time of 1:23.70 seconds. As a son of Tapit out of a Kris S. mare, Rafting is bred to improve with extra distance and is definitely a colt to watch during the coming months. Like Championofthenile, he has been nominated to the Champagne Stakes.
After finishing third and second in his first two starts, Ready Dancer completed his personal trifecta by breaking his maiden third time out on August 29th at Saratoga. Trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Repole Stables, the same connections as 2010 Eclipse champion 2yo male Uncle Mo, Ready Dancer showed good speed while tracking fractions of :22.57 and :45.80, then battled gamely through the homestretch to draw off and win by 2 1/2 lengths in the quick time of 1:10.02 for six furlongs. That was good enough for a Beyer speed figure of 85, and notably, the third-place finisher was Sail Ahoy, who has since stamped himself as an early favorite for the Kentucky Derby after winning one-mile a maiden special weight at Belmont Park.
Since breaking his maiden, Ready Dancer has turned in two workouts at Belmont and is among the nominees for the Champagne, as is Sail Ahoy.
Another runner for the duo of Pletcher and Repole Stables, Sudden Surprise went 2-for-2 during the Saratoga meet, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight by 2 3/4 lengths (with the third-place finisher another 10 1/4 lengths back) before scoring an easy two-length win in the 6 1/2-furlong Funny Cide Stakes. Both of those races were against fellow New York-breds, but he earned good Beyer speed figures on both occasions (89 and 81) and has really yet to be challenged. We’ll get a better feel for his talent and potential this Sunday when he runs in the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont Park, another stakes races for New York-breds that has drawn a very talented group of horses.
Tale of S’avall
Barclay Tagg had a great Saratoga meet, sending out several first-time starters to break their maidens, and Tale of S’avall was perhaps his most impressive runner. He didn’t get the best of trips early on, being forced to race wide while chasing fractions of :22.61 and :45.68, but he still had plenty in the tank when the real running began, and rallied to win by two lengths while stopping the clock for six furlongs in 1:10.25. His breeding–by Tale of Ekati out of the Awesome Again mare S’ Avall–suggests that he will have little trouble handling longer distances, and with three solid workouts under his belt since then, he looks like a logical candidate for the Champagne Stakes.
Stay tuned–I’ll be posting a similar article in the near future with five 2yos to watch from the Del Mar meet!
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