Sanford: Rose Junction promising Starlight juvenile

Don Lucarelli sat in the breezy shade of the clubhouse on Friday and watched Lignite win the third r

Don Lucarelli sat in the breezy shade of the clubhouse on Friday and watched Lignite win the third race by three-quarters of a length to break his maiden on Saratoga Race Course opening day.

The win by Lignite only served to bolster the confidence Starlight Racing has in Rose Junction, who wasn’t in that race, but will be in a much bigger one today.

Rose Junction, a son of Dixie Union purchased for $310,000 at the Keeneland September sale last year, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Grade II Sanford, and represents one of a nice collection of promising 2-year-olds that Starlight wants to run at the meet.

He posted an 88 Beyer speed figure, the highest by a 2-year-old in North America at the time, when he beat Lignite at Belmont Park on June 8.

“We’ve got a lot of 2-year-olds, which we haven’t had a lot of in the past this early, but this year, we seem to have a fair amount of them,” said Lucarelli, Starlight’s co-managing partner with Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs. “We had a 2-year-old filly [Comare] hurt in April who will probably come back at Gulfstream. She’s definitely the real deal. We’ll see how she comes back. But this year, our colts, if you ring the bell with them, that’s a good thing.”

The Starlight 2-year-olds have already made an impact, of sorts, at Saratoga.

Vinny Goodtimes, who will be pointed toward a career debut start in a few weeks, got loose while training on the main track a week and a half ago, somehow made it safely across Union Avenue and wound up crashing into a soccer net on the rec field adjacent to the Oklahoma training track before he was caught.

“Jack sent me a picture of the soccer net. Thank god, we’ve got property and casualty insurance,” Lucarelli said with a laugh. “He’s definitely a handful. Todd had to move him because he’s sort of studdish with the fillies. I’m sure he’s not on Todd’s favorites list, but a win could change all that. I mean, he’s fine, he came back and worked, which is a good sign. Crossing Union Avenue, they’re not looking each way.”

The other Starlight juvenile colt who is ready to roll is Track Barron winner Shanghai Bobby, who is scheduled to run in the Saratoga Special, the second leg of Saratoga’s graded stakes.

But first up is Rose Junction.

He went off as the 6-5 favorite and outdueled Liginite to pull away by three lengths.

“Thank god, we’re giving the horse seven-plus weeks, because the horse ran huge,” Lucarelli said. “He beat the horse who just came back and won here, so that sort of validates him, too. He’s training well, he’s doing everything he’s supposed to do.”

Rose Junction and Shanghai Bobby are both eligible for a $100,000 bonus being offered by the New York Racing Association to a 2-year-old maiden winner at Belmont or Aqueduct who goes on to win a graded stakes in New York this year.

“The horse has talent,” Lucarelli said of Rose Junction. “We hope the horse is more than a sprinter. He’s by Dixie Union, and by the way the horse is built, you hope the horse can get a mile and a sixteenth.”

Rose Junction will face eight in the Sanford, including Todd Pletcher stablemate Onetwentyeight, owned by Mike Repole.

Onetwentyeight, a half-brother to multiple graded-stakes winner Tackleberry, broke his maiden by five lengths at Belmont on June 28.

The field also includes Handsome Jack, who was second to Shanghai Bobby in the Track Barron at Belmont, and Bern Identity, who won by 133⁄4 lengths at Belmont on June 1.

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