Chalk up another 2-year-old turf stakes win for Mechanicville’s Chad Brown.
For the second consecutive day, he saddled a victorious horse in the feature race. After the filly Partisan Politics won the P.G. Johnson at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, Startup Nation won the Grade II With Anticipation on Thursday at the same 1 1/16-mile distance, closing from last to first on a wide trip through the final turn to kick away and win by 4 1/2 lengths.
“I’m very impressed. The horse had run very similar in her debut, very impressive with a big, wide move running away,” Brown said. “But running back just in three weeks, and now against open company, a stakes race, you need to move forward. For this horse to run back in three weeks and run the way she did — 1:41 and change — he’s a real runner.”
The win drew Brown within one win of leading trainer Todd Pletcher, whose Designed for War finished fifth on Military Appreciation Day at Saratoga. Brown is 22-14-13 from 86 starts at the meet, while Pletcher is 23-23-12 from 112 starts.
Juvenile races like this are usually Pletcher’s bread and butter, but Brown has had a far higher win percentage with 2-year-olds at the meet. Brown is 9-3-1 from 22 juvenile starts, while Pletcher is 7-10-4 from 44 starts.
Asked about the training race, Brown provided his standard one-race-at-a-time response, but delivered it after a sly smile that belied his excitement at the prospect of capturing his first title at Saratoga.
“We’re just going to go race by race and put them in the right spot,” Brown said. “I thought I had good chances today, going in. All the horses are in the right spots, they’re all doing well, we have one more to go. We’ll just stick to our plan, here, and see what happens.”
Startup Nation had won her debut Aug. 2 at this same distance, closing from about seven lengths back after the first six furlongs.
On Thursday, she was last of eight horses through the first half-mile, trailing the pacesetting Kutuzov by more than seven lengths, then swung wide through the turn to take off into the stretch.
Kutuzov led through a quarter-mile in 22.91 and slowed to lead the first half-mile in 47.27, then disappeared to the back of the field. Creaky Cricket briefly assumed the lead during the turn after stalking Kutuzov’s early pace.
Startup Nation entered the final turn in last, then exited it in first, traveling more ground than every other horse to do it.
“He’s the kind of horse, when he gets started, he goes on, and he keeps on going,” said winning jockey Joel Rosario. “After I made the move, I could feel him moving and he took off.”
As Rosario piloted her past the lead group of horses, he brought her close to the outside hip of eventual runner-up International Star as jockey Rosie Napravnik looked for room outside entering the stretch.
Napravnik lodged a claim of foul against Rosario for interference entering the stretch, but Brown said he saw “Absolutely nothing, to be honest with you. I have no idea what the claim was about.”
After an inquiry by the stewards, who reviewed video of the race, the results were allowed to stand. Startup Nation was only beside International Star for a blink or two, then was gone on ahead, and Rosario said he thought his ride was above reproach.
“I thought I had a lot of horse,” Rosario said. “I ran by her, and I tried to give her some room on the inside. I don’t know, I thought the horse on the inside came out a little bit, too, then she would probably not be in the right spot.”
Startup Nation paid $6.50, $3.80 and $3.10 in the win. International Star returned $5.10 and $4.00, while third-place Nutty Futty paid $4.80 to show.
With the wins of Startup Nation and Partisan Politics, Brown is now looking at a pair of fillies he might nominate for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“I haven’t been following the entire country to see what’s out there for juveniles on the turf, and I’m sure some haven’t even run yet,” Brown said. “But for what’s run already, I’d say these two horses that ran the last two days here are as good as I’ve seen out there. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t trade them with anybody.”