It was anything but the usual drill, even for trainer Todd Pletcher, who thrives with his 2-year-olds.
The hype surrounding Archwarrior in his debut was apparent even before the first flash of the betting odds had him at 1-9. He went off at 1-4 in the third race of the day, the first flat race, and won the maiden race with an $80,000 purse by 31⁄4 lengths.
After the race, Pletcher was surrounded by media with questions about the horse and the race, a rarity for any juvenile run that isn’t a stakes race. He said it was odd sending out a firster with so many eyes and dollars on him.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly like the Kentucky Derby, but you know, generally when you lead a first-time starter over here, you’re the one that kind of knows what you expect, and not everybody else maybe expects the same thing,” he said. “We were hoping he’d run as well as he’d been training.”
Transparent, a Bernardini colt trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, set the pace in the six-furlong dirt race through a quarter mile in 22.33 and a half in 45.09. Archwarrior was about 11⁄2 lengths back for much of the early going, then sped around the turn outside of Transparent to take the lead at the top of the stretch. Malachite followed him through to finish second, and Unlikely Scenario — trained by Saratoga Central Catholic graduate Terri Pompay — came along for third.
Archwarrior won in 1:10.07 with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez needing only to tap him twice with the whip in the stretch.
“I thought everything went as smoothly as we’d hoped it would,” Pletcher said. “I thought he ran very well, very professional, and he finished up and galloped out strongly.”
He guessed the colt must have had some admirers during his morning workouts, and that may be where the hype was generated.
“Not really sure why. The horse has trained well,” he said. “I think there’s a couple of guys who work for the [Daily Racing Form] that are clocking in the mornings, maybe talking on the internet, maybe giving out information on horses who are working in the morning.”
Archwarrior, an Arch colt, was sold at the Keeneland November weanling sales for $75,000, then sold in March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales for $375,000 to Alto Racing. Though he was the most expensive of six of Arch’s offspring to sell at auction this year, he was not the most expensive horse in this race, as Transparent sold for $725,000 at last year’s Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale.