Hey Mike (middle) finishing second in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes – Coady Photography
Although the attention of most handicappers this week will be on the Saturday card at Belmont Park, which includes the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and nine other stakes races, there’s also a fascinating card of races scheduled for Friday, including six stakes races. With entries having been drawn on Sunday, we’ve got a couple of days to handicap the Friday card before the Saturday races are drawn on Wednesday, so let’s start the ball rolling by taking a look at the $200,000 Tremont Stakes, a 5 1/2-furlong race for two-year-olds that has drawn an intriguing field of seven lightly-raced juveniles.
|1||Saratoga Two Step||Eric Cancel||George Weaver|
|2||Hey Mike||Javier Castellano||Mike Maker|
|3||Lady Stardust||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Wesley Ward|
|4||Silver Mission||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|5||Is Everybody Happy||B. Pedroza||Thomas Proctor|
|6||Pachi Craze||A. Cruz||Jose Corrales|
|7||Lifelong Dreamer||Joel Rosario||Wesley Ward|
When handicapping the Tremont, it’s hard to overlook the Wesley Ward-trained pair of Lady Stardust and Lifelong Dreamer. They have each run once before, with Lady Stardust winning a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct by 5 1/2 lengths and Lifelong Dream triumph in a five-furlong, $35,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Park by 5 3/4 lengths. Both won their races in easy fashion and possess excellent tactical speed, but of the pair, I prefer Lady Stardust. Not only did she beat (presumably) better company in her maiden special weight win, she did so while running considerably faster than Lifelong Dreamer, stopping the clock in :52.08 (just 0.48 off the track record) compared to :59.59 for Lifelong Dreamer (3.24 seconds off the track record.) The difference in times was reflected in their Beyer speed figures, as Lady Stardust received a 79 compared to Lifelong Dreamer’s 59.
But although Lady Stardust stands out among the Ward-trained runners, she could potentially face a stiff challenge from Saratoga Two Step. Trained by George Weaver, the son of Two Step Salsa was impressive in his debut at Gulfstream last month, romping by 6 1/2 lengths in the time of :51.69 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs. At first glance, that time really stands out, although it should be noted that times have been very quick in the 4 1/2-furlong maiden races at Gulfstream this year.
However, after drawing post position one, Saratoga Two Step might have to be sent hard to gain the early lead, especially with the fellow gate-to-wire maiden winners Silver Mission, Is Everybody Happy, and Lifelong Dreamer drawn to his outside. This could potentially play in favor of Lady Stardust, who came from 1 1/2 lengths back to win her debut, and the proven ability to rate just off the lead could be valuable in a race full of front-runners.
Another horse that could benefit from a fast pace is Hey Mike, the only horse in the Tremont to have run more than once. A son of Cape Blanco trained by Mike Maker, Hey Mike won his debut at Keeneland by a half-length over Red Lodge, closing four lengths in the final furlong to stop the clock in :51.36 seconds. This promising debut was following by a strong second to the Royal Ascot-bound Silvertoni in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race in which Hey Mike raced wide and was within a head of the lead before tiring to be beaten two lengths. The third-place finisher, Thirstforlife, returned to break his maiden by 6 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs on June 4th, and Red Lodge has also come back to win, breaking her maiden by 3 3/4 lengths on May 27th at Belmont Park. Like Silvertoni, Red Lodge is also heading to Royal Ascot for her next race.
Judging from the talented horses that Hey Mike has already faced and beaten, and given that pace scenario should play in his favor, I think he looks like the horse to beat in this race. His pedigree suggests that he should only get better with extra distance, and having the three-time Eclipse award-winning jockey Javier Castellano in the saddle is an added benefit. I’ll make him my selection to win, with respect to Lady Stardust and Saratoga Two Step for the exotics.
Good luck to all, and enjoy the race!