Saratoga: Hopeful is just first major step for Pompay’s freaky colt

Trainer Terri Pompay’s friends and family “come out of the woodwork” every time she runs a horse at

Trainer Terri Pompay’s friends and family “come out of the woodwork” every time she runs a horse at Saratoga Race Course, she said.

She should expect an even bigger crowd than usual this time, as the 1979 Saratoga Central Catholic High School graduate has a very good chance to win the Grade I Hopeful on Monday.

The Monmouth Park-based Pompay had been brimming with confidence in her 2-year-old colt, Currency Swap, to begin with, but he validated himself further by breaking his maiden first time out by six lengths at Saratoga on Aug. 6.

It was the fifth time Pompay saddled a winner at Saratoga in her career, and she and owners Klar­avich Stables and William Lawrence have visions of the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Derby with this son of High Cotton.

“I really thought he was a special horse,” Pompay said during a weekly NTRA teleconference on Tuesday. “Of course, when you go to Saratoga against all the big guns, you don’t know how you’re going to stack up. I think he’s a little bit of a freak, so we were willing to go up and try it.”

Currency Swap was purchased for $70,000 at the Fasig-Tipton summer yearling sale in 2010.

His career debut at 61⁄2 furlongs couldn’t have gone better.

He went off at almost 10-1, broke cleanly and pressed the pace a little more closely than Pompay had expected.

Once the field turned down the stretch, he was much the best under Rajiv Maragh, passing heavy favorite Takes the Gold at the eighth pole as Africanist got up for second but never threatened the lead.

“He showed a lot of class at Gulfstream,” Pompay said. “He’s never taken a bad step, and has never acted like a 2-year-old. He’s like an older horse. He took to shipping well, and he’s been galloping like he’s been doing it forever.

“A lot of times when younger horses ship, they get frazzled. He schooled in the paddock and stopped to look around at everything. He exudes class, and he’s a big, good-looking dude. He’s scopy, with a big, wide chest. He’s the best horse I’ve ever been around.”

Since the victory, Seth Klarman of Klaravich and Lawrence have received some phone calls to take Currency Swap off their hands, Pompay said, but, based on their desire to do big things with this horse, most people know better than to try to buy him.

“There’s been some offers, but Mr. Klarman and Mr. Lawrence have wanted to get a nice horse like this for a long time so they can go to the Breeders’ Cup and get on the Kentucky Derby trail,” Pompay said. “It would have to be an obscene offer or don’t even call. There’s a lot of people in the business who know they probably wouldn’t sell, anyway.”

Pompay’s other Saratoga winners were Compliance Officer last year, Stand on Top in 2003 and 2004 and Someplace Fast in 1996.

She said she got hooked on horses at a young age and became a show rider.

Klaravich Stables and Lawrence sent a claimer to Pompay, and last year sent some 2-year-olds her way, including Printing Press, who was stakes-placed twice.

“I galloped some thoroughbreds to subsidize my show-riding, and it grew from there,” she said. “Then I was an assistant trainer. In the beginning, there weren’t too many women doing it, and it was hard to get clients. There’s a lot more now. I’ve always been obsessed with horses since the first time I saw one when I was 3.”

With Sanford winner Overdriven on the shelf and Saratoga Special winner Union Rags skipping the Hopeful, Pompay sees the race as a prime opportunity to snare a Grade I and keep Currency Swap progressing.

J C’s Pride is set for the Hopeful for trainer Bob Barbara after breaking a track record earlier in the meet.

Currency Swap broke his maiden at 61⁄2 furlongs, while many of the 2-year-olds haven’t even raced six yet, so he could have a leg up in that department.

“I think he’ll love the added distance,” Pompay said. “Some of the others have gone 51⁄2 furlongs, and they’re all babies. All we’ve been doing in training is keeping him fresh and happy.

“The thing is, with babies, you never know which ones will move forward. Todd [Pletcher] always has a monster, he’s got Big Blue Nation, and J C’s Pride obviously is very fast, but he only went five-eighths. I think the advantage I’ll have is the distance. When you look at the past performances, my horse looks really good, but you still don’t know who’s going to improve. I’m confident he’ll run real well. He already has the numbers. You hope he improves, and the others don’t improve a lot.”

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