Starlight Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher are still mystified by how badly Rose Junction bombed in the Sanford on opening weekend of the Saratoga Race Course meet.
They’ll get another crack at a juvenile graded stakes today when Shanghai Bobby runs in the Grade II Saratoga Special.
Pletcher also has Drum Roll, who will break to the right of Shanghai Bobby from the outermost post in the seven-horse field.
Starlight, whose managing partners are Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs, had a pleasant surprise early in the meet when Lawn Man won first time out, and he’s being considered for the Hopeful at the end of the meet.
They had high hopes for Rose Junction, though, and he finished up the track in last place in the Sanford.
That puts a little bit of pressure on Shanghai Bobby, who will also feel pressure from his stablemate on the outside.
“I wish we drew outside,” Lucarelli said. “We may have to be on the engine again. We’ll be able to look over and have a tactical advantage over the ones inside, it’s the one outside of us that we have to be worried about.”
Shanghai Bobby will also carry 122 pounds and give four to everyone else, who are all coming off maiden wins.
The Harlan’s Holiday colt, who was bought for $105,000 at the Keeneland September sale, won the listed Track Barron stakes at Belmont Park under Rosie Napravnik on June 27.
He was targeted for the Saratoga Special out of the race to keep his schedule separate from that of Rose Junction.
“I thought it was a big effort,” Pletcher said. “It was an extremely hot pace, and he was able to duel through some fast fractions and still had something left in the end. It’s nice to see that he’s run twice at two different styles and seems to be adaptable to whatever pace scenarios
“The horse got a little lazy in the stretch, but once he sensed that other horse, he took off and found another gear, which is what you’re going to need when he goes longer,” Lucarelli said.
Barn full of talent
As has become the custom in recent years, Pletcher has dominated Saratoga with his juveniles. Between his barns on the Oklahoma training track and Saratoga Raceway, he has about 50 juveniles in town.
Heading into Saturday’s card, 12 of his meet-leading 18 wins were with 2-year-olds.
Through Saturday, his record was 12-7-3 from 32 juvenile starters, with six wins from 19 colts starting, and six from 13 fillies.
The secret to Shanghai Bobby’s success was discovered in training at Palm Meadows, Fla.
“He was one of the first 2-year-olds to come to us at Palm Meadows, and he’s trained well every step along the way,” Pletcher said. “He was a little bit curious at Palm Meadows, and we decided to put some blinkers on him then, and it seemed to make a big difference, so we’ll continue with those, but he’s become much more professional as we’ve gone along.
“You could see that a lot of what he was doing he was doing while he was a little bit unfocused. We breezed him from the gate one morning at Palm Meadows with blinkers on, and he impressed us that morning.”
The connections had hoped to use the 61⁄2-furlong Saratoga Special as an opportunity to get Shanghai Bobby to rate off the lead, but that scenario may not materialize since the speedy Drum Roll, who will be ridden by newly minted Hall of Famer John Velazquez, is on his outside.
“It’s not an issue of whether he gets the distance, you just have to question what the pace is going to be,” Lucarelli said. “The break is the key, and Johnny is a very good gate jockey. So it’ll be interesting, but you’ve got to run in these to gauge where you stand. Once we get him stretched out, you’ll see what kind of talent he has.”
Drum Roll overcame several adverse factors to win his debut impressively at Monmouth Park on July 8, including delays due to a late scratch and a bump after he veered right out of the gate.
He got in tight along the rail under Chris DeCarlo, but motored up to the lead and won by 23⁄4 lengths.
Pletcher will likely have several options for the Grade II Hopeful on closing weekend.
“I would say that Palace Malice and Lawn Man are possible for the Hopeful, and we’ll see how this goes on the weekend with these two,” he said.
KAUAI KATIE FAVORED
Pletcher is loaded in the other juvenile stakes on the card, with 2-5 morning-line favorite Kauai Katie in the Grade II Adirondack.
She blasted home by 12 lengths on opening day for Stonestreet Stable, which won the Adirondack last year with 2-year-old filly champion My Miss Aurelia.
“She trained exceptionally well here all summer,” Pletcher said. “We were excited to have her ready to run, we were looking forward to it, and she exceeded our excpectations.”
The Adirondack has drawn two from the Schuylerville.
Fully Living was fourth behind So Many Ways, and Sweet Shirley Mae was fifth.