All in Blue was the morning-line favorite for the Grade III Sapling at Monmouth Park on Sunday.
Starlight Racing likes to swing for the fences, though, and also much prefers racing at Saratoga Race Course than in New Jersey, so their colt will run in the Grade I Hopeful today.
It’s a race that Starlight, whose co-managing partners are Duanesburg’s Don Lucarelli and Jack Wolf, won last year with Shanghai Bobby on his way to the 2-year-old colt Eclipse Award. New York Giants vice president of player evaluation Chris Mara is a partner in All in Blue.
He was 5-2 on the morning line for the Sapling, and is 15-1 for the Hopeful.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will also saddle Corfu and King Cyrus in the Hopeful, believes All in Blue belongs in the Hopeful after his shot at the Grade II Sanford on opening weekend was compromised by several factors.
“Running back on short rest and stumbling at the start, I think, compromised his chances in the Sanford,” Pletcher said. “He’s trained well since then, and we feel he deserves another chance.”
All in Blue, a gray/roan son of More Than Ready bought by Starlight for $155,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale last year, had a smashing debut at Belmont Park on July 4, winning by 6 1⁄4 lengths.
That prompted his connections to bring him back in the Sanford 17 days later, where he was fourth behind Wired Bryan, Southern Blessing and Hollywood Talent.
He’ll face Wired Bryan, who will be tackling his third graded stakes of the meet, and Southern Blessing again in the Hopeful.
Corfu is the 3-1 favorite after beating Wired Bryan by a nose in the Saratoga Special three weeks ago.
“He’s pretty fast, and speed is his weapon, so we’ll look to continue to take advantage of that,” Pletcher said of Corfu, who is owned by the Coolmore connections of Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
“In both of his races, he’s shown he’s got some fight to him, so we hope that he’ll be able to carry his speed a little further.”
WinStar Farm’s King Cyrus, a son of Bellamy Road, has started once, and won by 11 lengths at Saratoga on Aug. 5.
“His one start was impressive,” Pletcher said. “He’s a horse that is going to appreciate more distance down the road, but in a race that looks like it’s going to have a lot of pace, it could set up well for him.
“You’re always concerned going from one start to a Grade I, but that’s sort of where today’s racing is. You’re forced to jump into the deep end of the pool right off the bat.”
Wired Bryan is the second choice at 7-2, and is a nose loss to Corfu in the Saratoga Special away from being undefeated in three starts.
Trainer Michael Dilger, a former Pletcher assistant, said he has no reservations about bringing him back for a third time in a graded stakes at the meet.
“I think his biggest asset is his attitude,” he said. “He’s a very laid-back horse, borderline lazy. That helps when you’re trying to put together three races in quick succession.
“We’re running him in these races because that’s the way he’s presented himself. He shows that he’s able to handle it.”
Besides Southern Blessing, trainer Steve Asmussen also has Big Sugar Soda, who won by 8 1⁄4 lengths at Saratoga on July 22.
Also on the closing-day card is the Grade III Glens Falls for fillies and mares 3-and-up on the inner turf.
In what appears to be a wide-open race, Tannery is the 2-1 favorite coming off a fourth by 2 3⁄4 lengths behind Big Blue Kitten against males in the Grade I Sword Dancer.