Sticksstatelydude, the promising two-year-old that broke his maiden in impressive fashion at Saratoga earlier this summer, will make his stakes debut on Saturday in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland.
The son of First Dude had been entered in the prestigious Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) on September 7th at Saratoga, but according to the Keeneland Barn Notes for September 30th, he was scratched from the race due to a temperature.
“There were allergies up there and I had to walk him for four days,” trainer Greg Burchell said. “He has moved forward from that and had a good work (:47.60 for a half-mile) at Churchill last Friday and galloped out well.”
For Burchell, who has just two horses in his stable, the excitement of training a colt like Sticksstatelydude is very special.
“I have been around the track all my life with just a handful of horses and went to grade school and middle school here with Kiaran (McLaughlin),” Burchell said. “It is a dream come true just to run at that level. To win this and go on to the Breeders’ Cup and then maybe the Triple Crown campaign would be the icing on the cake.”
After finishing second in his debut at Churchill Downs, Sticksstatelydude shipped to Saratoga and defeated a talented field that included the next-out winners Ready Dancer and Isotherm. He then shipped to Saratoga, where he was trapped behind horses early on before unleashing a powerful rally while weaving in and out to win going away in impressive fashion.
“He took the worst of it and was next to last at the half-mile pole,” Burchell said. “He ran a big race.”
In the Breeders’ Futurity, Sticksstatelydude will be making his first start around two turns, but Burchell is confident that his colt will handle the extra distance just fine.
“I think the two turns will help him as much as anything,” Burchell said of Saturday’s race. “He has a good cruising speed that should keep him close so he won’t have that much to do late.”
One of Sticksstatelydude’s main challenges is Exaggerator, who broke his maiden at Del Mar before shipping to Saratoga and turning in a very professional performance to win the Saratoga Special Stakes (gr. II) with an impressive rally up the rail. He worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat at Churchill Downs on September 26th, a breeze that was impressive, according to quotes in the Churchill Downs barn notes for September 26th.
“He looked awesome,” said Julie Clark, assistant to trainer Keith Desormeaux. “He was real strong and galloped out nice “His progression back has been a little slower. Last week’s work was a little on the slow side so we wanted to ask a little more this time. Brian [Hernandez Jr., who was aboard Exaggerator] actually said that he didn’t have to ask and that he was a little eager to go around there so we’re happy.”
“I liked his last race [the Saratoga Special],” Clark said. “He was at the back in the early stages but moved up and didn’t get rattled sitting behind those horses. I think he got a little impatient with [jockey] Junior [Alvarado] and said, ‘Hey we’re going,’ so he showed a lot of maturity. He came out of that race great. The next day you walk him and think ‘Okay, this thing needs to run.’”
Exaggerator is the second top-notch two-year-old to emerge from Desormeaux’s barn in as many years, following in the footsteps of Texas Red, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in 2014.
“Texas Red was mentally just a little more focused,” Clark said. “[Exaggerator] on the other hand is all over the map. This horse is just never tired; every day he is a bundle of energy. When he’s on the track it’s night and day. He looked so mature in the [Saratoga] Special.”
Sticksstatelydude and Exaggerator will break from adjacent post positions in the Breeders’ Futurity, with Sticksstatelydude starting from post six and Exaggerator breaking from post seven. The graded stakes-placed runners Rated R Superstar and Uncle Vinny are other prominent starters, along with Wesley Ward’s speedy Saratoga maiden winner Sheikh of Sheikhs.
The complete entries for the Breeders’ Futurity are as follows:
Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1 Rated R Superstar, Calvin Borel, Kenny McPeek
2 Uncle Jerry, James Graham, Eoin Harty
3 Hawbill, Mike Smith, Charles Appleby
4 Gametown, Julien Leparoux, Mark Casse
5 Brody’s Cause, Corey Lanerie, Dale Romans
6 Sticksstatelydude, Brian Hernandez Jr., Greg Burchell
7 Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux
8 Sheikh of Sheikhs, Edgar Prado, Wesley Ward
9 Wild Man, Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen
10 Threefiveindia, Chris Landeros, S. Lyster
11 Pinnacle Peak, Victor Espinoze, Michael Stidham
12 Uncle Vinny, Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher