Saratoga: Pletcher's 2-year-olds should be tough again
SARATOGA SPRINGS It’s a common response: “I’d rather not say anything.”
The Saratoga Race Course meet traditionally is the point at which the best juveniles in any given crop finally are unveiled.
But questions before the meet asking to identify promising 2-year-olds often are stonewalled.
Besides the vagaries in the growth and development of young horses, trainers frequently prefer not to publicize which of their
juveniles have stood out in training for risk of alienating owners.
“If I leave somebody off, then somebody’ll call in. But we’ve got a nice group,” said trainer Dale Romans, leaving it at that.
Then there’s Todd Pletcher’s 2-year-olds, hiding in plain sight.
The three-time defending standings leader at Saratoga won 23 races with juveniles in 40 racing days last year, and will trot out another outstanding group as the 145th meet opens today.
As they were last year, Pletcher’s 2-year-olds will be spotlighted right off the bat, with two in the featured Grade II Schuylerville, as well as two well-intended fillies in a maiden race offering an $80,000 purse earlier in the card.
His Stonestreet Stables entry of Elena Strikes and Yes Liz aren’t
favored in the Schuylerville on the morning line — that distinction goes to 7-5 Bahnah — but the connections are the same that took the 2012 meet by storm with the likes of Kauai Katie, Dreaming of Julia and Teen Pauline.
“I would say it’s impossible to do as well with the 2-year-olds this year as we did last year,” Pletcher said on Wednesday morning. “At the same time, we have some that we’re looking forward to running, and it looks like we’re going to be active in the first couple of stakes, and we’ll see how many maidens come along.”
On Sunday, the colt portion of the first leg in Saratoga’s three-part series of graded stakes for juveniles, the Grade II Sanford, will highlight the program.
Naturally, Pletcher will have a good shot to win that one, too.
Among the colts he plans to run is All in Blue, owned by Starlight Racing, whose co-managing partners are Jack Wolf and Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg. All in Blue broke his maiden by 61⁄4 lengths first time out at Belmont Park on the Fourth of July.
First thing’s first, though.
Yes Liz, a daughter of Yes It’s True, went off at 1-2 in her career debut at Belmont on July 3 and rolled by 33⁄4 lengths in 57.99 for five furlongs.
Elena Strikes, a daughter of Smart Strike, had already established herself by then, winning on June 22 at Monmouth Park by 23⁄4 lengths as the 1-5 favorite.
“They’ve both been very straightforward, professional fillies that have caught on to everything really quickly, caught up at the gate really quickly,” Pletcher said. “They come from two different backgrounds.
“Elena Strikes came from Stonestreet South and is a homebred who did all of her training at the farm before she came to the track. Yes Liz is a filly who was acquired by Stonestreet at OBS April and had a different type of foundation. She was pretty far along when we got her in and never missed a beat when she came in.”
Besides those two, Pletcher has a pair from Repole Stable in the third race — Stopchargingmaria and Our Amazing Rose, who are even money.
Yes Liz was able to get out of the gate and handle a fast early quarter by She’s Coal Fired before going on to win.
Elena Strikes used a different running style, stalking the pace before rolling home in the stretch.
“She [Yes Liz] showed quite a bit of quickness at OBS April, and yes, we did anticipate she would be away from the gate pretty quickly and have some early speed,” Pletcher said.
“Elena Strikes is looking for more ground. In the five-furlong race at Monmouth, he [Joe Bravo] had to ride her a little more aggressively in the early part than I think she wants to be ridden. So I think with an additional furlong and a lot of early speed in there, that’ll allow her to run the style that she wants.”
As it did last year, the New York Racing Association is offering a $100,000 bonus to any juvenile who breaks his or her maiden at a NYRA track, then goes on to win a juvenile graded stakes.
Pletcher also has the impressive winner Ari the Adventurer, another Stonestreet filly, pointed toward the Adirondack.
“I’m a realist,” he said. “We’ve got a nice group, but it’s probably a group that’s going to be later to develop. Like a lot of people, we’ve been held up by the rain quite a bit.”
Bahnah, the 7-5 Schuylerville favorite, broke her maiden by six lengths at Churchill Downs in June.