Sticksstatelydude a Live Longshot in the Hopeful Stakes

Sticksstatelydude a Live Longshot in the Hopeful Stakes

The feature at Saratoga on the closing day of the meet is the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), a very old and prestigious race that serves as a showcase for some of the best two-year-olds on the East Coast. A talented field of eight has been entered in the race, including a pair of stakes winners and several exciting maiden winners. Here’s a quick preview of the race, with profiles of each horse:

1 Magna Light (3-1)
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
Magna Light was the main player in a controversially disqualification in the Sanford Stakes (gr. III) on the second day of the meet. After setting fast fractions and opening up a two-length lead past the eighth pole, Magna Light drifted dramatically outward, then inward again, and while he hung on to win by three-quarters of a length, he did cause some slight interference to third-place finisher Percolator, possibly causing him a better finish. As a result, Magna Light was disqualified to third, but regardless, he proved in the Sanford that he’s a very talented colt, and if not for his antics in the homestretch, he would have won decisively. Drawing post one could lead to a slightly tricky trip, but Magna Light is definitely a major contender for the victory.

2 Sallisaw (5-1)
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
He showed a lot of grit in his debut, overcoming a slow start to get up in the final furlong and win by three-quarters of a length. It wasn’t a flashy performance, but it was solid nevertheless, and he has a pedigree that suggests the extra distance of the Hopeful won’t be an issue.

3 Sticksstatelydude (12-1)
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
H
e was eye-catching in his maiden win at Saratoga last month, rallying strongly despite drifting around in the homestretch to win by two lengths, and he gave the impression that he’s a very, very talented colt just waiting to put it all together. I have the feeling that Sticksstatelydude may be among the most talented 2yos on the East Coast, and if he turns in a more professional performance in the Hopeful, I think he will win this race. He is my selection to win.

4 Set the Trappe (8-1)
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
He’s one of two maidens that have been entered in the Hopeful, having lost his debut sprinting six furlongs at Saratoga after leading by two lengths past the eighth pole. He could show improvement in his second start, but figures to be challenged from the start by Magna Light, and the extra distance of the Hopeful might not help his chances.

5 Tom’s Ready (10-1)
He’s the other maiden in the Hopeful but ran quite well in his debut, rallying from eleven lengths back to finish just 1 1/2 lengths behind Sallisaw in the latter’s maiden win. Given another furlong to work with on Monday, Tom’s Ready could definitely be a contender to rally from way back and get involved for a major placing, and as maiden, he will likely be an overlay.

6 Ralis
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
In my opinion, the California-based 2yos are the best in the country right now, making Ralis an intriguing contender in the Hopeful. Although his best efforts have come in state-bred company, Ralis did turn in a nice effort to finish second in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar last time out, earning a very competitive Beyer speed figure of 77. Time will tell if he can handle the extra distance of the Hopeful, but his combination of tactical speed and ability to rate should enable him to work out a nice trip, and he also picks up the services of top jockey Javier Castellano.

7 Uncle Vinny
“Diamonds in the Rough” race recap available here
He benefited from Magna Light’s disqualification in the Sanford to be declared the official winner, and while he did put in a big late run that day, I’m not sure that he will be able to turn the tables of Magna Light if the latter stays on a straight course today. At 5-2, he’s one that I might try to beat for the top spot, although it’s hard to overlook him as a logical candidate for the exotics.

8 Bullet Gone Astray
Unbeaten colt is stepping up in class, but was visually impressive when winning the six-furlong Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes by nine lengths last time out. In terms of Beyer speed figures, he’s not that much slower than his key rivals, and his tactical versatility and wide post position should enable his jockey to size up the way the race is unfolding and place Bullet Gone Astray wherever is best. At 15-1 on the morning line, I think he’s worth a look as a very live longshot.

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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