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What you need to know for 01/24/2017

Saratoga Race Course: Competitive Edge triumphs

Saratoga Race Course: Competitive Edge triumphs

I Spent It acted like the class clown. Competitive Edge, meanwhile, went to the head of the class. I
Saratoga Race Course: Competitive Edge triumphs
Competitive Edge with John Velazquez up winning The Hopeful, the last feature race of the season on Monday afternoon.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

I Spent It acted like the class clown.

Competitive Edge, meanwhile, went to the head of the class.

Ignoring his rival’s rambunctious antics in the paddock and starting gate, Competitive Edge ran a professional race under John Velazquez to win the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course on Monday.

Signature Cat and I Spent It led the field into the turn, with jockey John Velazquez and Competitive Edge keeping a close eye on Saratoga Special winner I Spent It, ridden by Javier Castellano.

Competitive Edge cruised to the lead on the turn outside I Spent It and methodically pulled away in the stretch to win by 53⁄4 lengths.

“I was worried about one horse and one horse only; it was the horse Javier was on,” Velazquez said. “He ended up being close to the lead, so that was my chance to put pressure on him and engage him and let him use his horse early. Between me and the other horse [Signature Cat], he had to ride, ride, ride to stay in there.”

The Hopeful win represented trainer Todd Pletcher’s 999th career stakes win, and he hit 1,000 later in the day when Protonico won the Smarty Jones at Parx.

Pletcher said Competitive Edge’s cool demeanor is a big part of why he should be considered one of the best 2-year-olds in the country, if not the best.

“When you have one with exceptional ability and a mindset to go along with it, it’s doubly dangerous,” Pletcher said. “I was actually hoping he’d show signs of life and get up on his toes [in the paddock]. Once we’ve gotten to know him and know that that’s him, it’s amazing that he can do some of the things he does and come back and not even blow out a match.”

“This one has great talent,” Velazquez said. “Nothing bothers him. Nothing tears his hair out, scares him or anything. He’s so laid-back, his future can be much better than the other ones.”

In finishing second, I Spent It completed an exacta of colts by Super Saver, Pletcher’s 2010 Kentucky Derby winner.

Trainer Tony Dutrow said he knew there was trouble when I Spent It was wasting energy in the paddock.

He also acted up in the gate.

“He always has had bad behavior problems,” he said. “He got him out of sorts today. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to see, but I didn’t know how he’d react to it. We’ll work with him and hope for a better day this fall.”

“He was fine in the post parade, but in the walking ring and in the gate, he was really bad,” Castellano said. “He freaked in the gate. Everything was wrong for him. He lost his mind. He broke out of the gate and he wanted to run off. He never was on his game today.”

Pletcher said the Grade I Champagne on Sept. 27 at Belmont Park is a likely next target, but because it’s seven furlongs going around one turn, he might look elsewhere.

“The question is the Breeders’ Cup is in California again, and do we want to get some two-turn experience before we go,” he said.

“The Champagne will be our first option, but I’ll talk to the connections and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

RING WEEKEND WINS

In his second career start, Ring Weekend, fifth in the Preakness, won the Grade III Saranac under John Velazquez with a stalking trip as the 3-2 betting favorite.

Smooth Daddy led Bashart through a quarter-mile in 23.34 and a half-mile in 47.39, with Ring Weekend tracking inside all the way.

He kicked away with a furlong left to beat Smooth Daddy by 23⁄4 lengths.

“I was pretty tight on the hedge all the way around, and he handled that really well,” Velazquez said. “I got to the five-sixteenths pole and got him to the clear, and the rest was pretty easy.”

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