Do you wait, or do you run back in less than three weeks to give yourself a better chance in the Hopeful?
All in Blue got the deciding vote here, and it was a definitive one in favor of the quick comeback, so he’s in the field for the 99th running of the Grade II Sanford at Saratoga Race Course today.
Owned by Starlight Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of More Than Ready is the 2-1 morning-line favorite just 17 days after a terrific debut win by 61⁄4 lengths at Belmont Park on the Fourth of July.
Filly stablemate Yes Liz ran in the Schuylerville on Friday, so she’ll scratch from the Sanford, leaving five rivals, including undefeated Bashford Manor winner Debt Ceiling, breaking outside of All in Blue and jockey Javier Castellano.
A strong work on the Saratoga main track on July 15 convinced the connections to bring All in Blue back in the Sanford.
All in Blue went four furlongs in 48.77.
“The early concern — if it was a concern, and Todd doesn’t think so — is the short rest,” said Starlight co-managing partner Don Lucarelli. “But the breezes came around, and Todd said he was on his game.
“We liked the way he did it, how he finished and the gallop-out. The report from the rider was that he did it well within himself.”
So, on to the Sanford.
The alternate game plan was to run in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 11, which would have left 22 days to get ready for the Hopeful.
“It’s the old story, the horse would tell us,” Lucarelli said. “From a spacing standpoint, we were trying to get to the Hopeful either way.”
Lucarelli said that All in Blue has always been a little ahead of the game.
Starlight sends its yearlings to Florida, where they get their initial training from Pletcher’s father, J.J.
Still, winning his maiden so impressively was a little beyond what they expected from him first time out.
“He actually surpassed it [expectations],” Lucarelli said. “Todd’s father had him at the farm and said that he showed to be the most precocious of the bunch and always was forward. Early in the winter, he showed all the signs of a good horse who would be able to win early. And he was ready to run.”
The gray All in Blue, who was purchased for $155,000, was one of two More Than Ready yearlings that Starlight bought at the Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sale last year. The other is the filly Ready’s Legend, who was eighth in her debut on the same Belmont card in which All in Blue broke his maiden.
Castellano was aboard for the maiden win, and will have some tactical decisions to make right out of the gate, since All in Blue is on the rail.
“The filly is scratching, of course, but there’s still a lot of speed, so it’s all about the trip,” Lucarelli said. “Being on the inside, Javier has to figure out a way to not be in a speed duel, but also get position. He has very good speed, but it needs to be used the right way.”
If All in Blue performs well enough in the Sanford, Starlight will find themselves in a similar position as last year, with a good horse for the Hopeful, a race they won with Shanghai Bobby.
“It’s always exciting to be at Saratoga and in a 2-year-old stakes, and the partners get what they paid for,” Lucarelli said. “That’s what we’re selling.”
Debt Ceiling is the 5-2 second choice, and for good reason, considering the fact that he has won all three starts and is a graded-stakes winner, taking the Bashford Manor by 23⁄4 lengths.
Hollywood Talent was second in that race and comes back in the Sanford, also.
Debt Ceiling has won at three different tracks, breaking his maiden at Laurel Park in March and following it up with a win in the listed Rollicking at Pimlico in May.
“I didn’t have him cranked up to win first out, and he did it on his own,” trainer John Robb said. “The Pimlico race was very impressive because he ducked out and
stayed in the eight path the whole way.
“In the Bashford Manor, the move he made will make your jaw drop. He does everything nice; he acts like an older horse. He’s the real deal. Every time he’s won, he’s won pulling up, so we’ve never got into him.”