It was less like a cartoon light bulb popping on over the head of Craving Carats, and more like a headlight.
The 2-year-old Street Sense colt has found turf and routes more to his liking, and with his start today in the Grade II $200,000 With Anticipation, he will step onto the same road traveled by fellow Donegal Racing asset Dullahan when he was figuring it all out.
Skidmore graduate and Saratoga Springs resident Ray Bryan owns a piece of both horses through Donegal, and he said bearing witness to the maturity process in a young horse with potential like Craving Carats provides some special moments.
“One thing that’s great about him — it’s interesting to watch the development of these horses — is prior to Craving Carats’ win, he was a little bit more lackadaisical and you could tell he was figuring things out,” Bryan said. “Ever since his win, he’s been feeling his oats, you might say. He’s been more feisty, he tends to try to bite you a little bit more now. He definitely knows he’s becoming a racehorse, and that’s one of the things that’s fun to watch.”
Craving Carats debuted with a fourth-place finish in a 41⁄2-furlong dirt run at Churchill Downs before a third over five furlongs at Belmont. Trainer Dale Romans switched him to turf for a runner-up finish at seven furlongs in July, then saw him break his maiden at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 4 in a 11⁄16-mile turf run on the lead from gate to wire.
That distance, of course, is the same as today’s With Anticipation, where he’ll face 3-1 morning-line favorite Charming Kitten and 7-2 Joha. Craving Carats is 8-1, but he could jump up and show his true potential with a win.
“Craving Carats just floated over the track,” Bryan said of his first impression of the horse. “We weren’t sure if he was going to be a turf horse or a dirt horse, so obviously, we tried him on the dirt first. Then we saw he had a turf foot, we tried him on the turf, he took to it pretty easily and came in second. The next time, we lengthened him out, and he won right out of the gate, had a nice ride.”
Bryan has been watching Craving Carats grow along with his two daughters, also still growing. Charlotte, 10, and Elizabeth, 13, have been around the barn with Bryan, who said his youngest agrees with the exercise rider for Craving Carats, that the horse is lined up for a pretty good career.
“I know the person who gallops him every day [Rudy Wolfendale], and he said he’s taking all the right steps here at Saratoga to be a nice horse,” Bryan said. “He’s my daughter Charlotte’s favorite horse. Her other favorite horse was Brilliant Speed, and I didn’t own any of him, but so far, she seems to have a good eye.”
Brilliant Speed, of course, won the Grade III Saranac here last year along with the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland, was third in last year’s Belmont, third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and most recently was third in the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga.
This year’s winner of the Blue Grass was Dullahan, so if everything goes well, Craving Carats could follow that path to the 2013 renewal. He already will likely follow Dullahan’s hoofsteps from the With Anticipation to the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
Dullahan has not run poorly on grass, but his synthetic prowess has been obvious with three wins on the surface, including Sunday’s victory in the Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar.
Bryan bought a piece of Dullahan in time to watch him run third in the Kentucky Derby this year, checking off one item on his to-do list, the walk-across at the Derby.
This weekend, he was watching him on TV as jockey Joel Rosario guided the grandson of Smart Strike to his first win in a $1 million race.
“It was amazing. It was very similar to what he did in the Blue Grass,” Bryan said. “Kent [Desormeaux in the Blue Grass] had to maneuver him a little bit more than Rosario did [Sunday], but Rosario watches film obviously, and knew what the horse was capable of. He came out wide on that turn, and the move he had was just amazing. He kept going. He’s got a great burst, and he can keep it up for four-eighths. It’s just fantastic what he’s capable of. He’s got a great motor and a great kick.”
A turf race or a trip to the Breeders’ Cup could be up next for Dullahan, who ultimately is pointed toward a run at the Dubai World Cup — another to-do item on Bryan’s list. If O’Prado Again does well between now and then, he, too, could represent Donegal in Dubai.
With Craving Carats starting off on the same juvenile route traveled by Dullahan a year ago, it’s fun to watch both horses and wonder what the next year holds for the 2-year-old. Dullahan was third in the With Anticipation last year, but Bryan thinks the race and its other entries seem to set things up well for Craving Carats, whose running style differs a bit from Dullahan’s.
“He seems to be more of a stalker — just rate and close at the end when he’s in a more forwardly placed position,” Bryan said. “I think that’s going to set up well for the With Anticipation, because it tends to be more speed-favoring. With his style, that tends to be more favorable. With Dullahan, he’s just a pure closer. With Craving Carats, he should be more forwardly placed and be able to close, have a little burst at the end, and that should set him up for the With Anticipation.
“We’ve never won it, so with me being a Saratoga resident, it would be fantastic. I’ve never won a graded stakes at Saratoga, but we’ll see what takes place.”