SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Robert V. LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners LLC’s Coal Front took the lead from the beginning and never looked back, conquering all comers in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam at Saratoga Race Course.
Breaking sharply from post two under jockey John Velazquez, Coal Front was initially challenged to the outside by Mo Cash. The pair were close together down the backside and through the far turn, setting fractions of :22.37 and :45.90. Turning for home, Coal Front kicked away quickly to dispatch the field, completing the 6 1/2-furlong race in 1:16.05.
“It really worked out good,” said Velazquez. “We liked the post position and we wanted to get into position anyway. He broke really well. He settled really well where he was. It was pretty easy, really. He was playing around a little, and once I got serious with him, as soon as I let him know he needed to run, he responded right away.”
Making his stakes debut, the Amsterdam was the 3-year-old colt’s third victory in as many career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. It also marked the fourth win of the day for both Velazquez and Pletcher in only the day’s first five races.
“It’s hard to win a race, much less the first three,” said Pletcher. “He beat a pretty strong group of older horses last time, and then to step up into a graded stakes, it just seems like he’s getting better and better. We’ve done a lot of work with him with the gate crew, and they’ve done a great job with him. He loaded up really well today, which he did not do last time. He acted really professionally during the race. He kind of pricked his ears coming to the wire, which is hard to do when they run that fast.”
After trailing early, Excitations displayed a powerful kick down the stretch but ran out of time and could only muster second, a diminshing 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. It was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Singing Bullet, who caught a fading Mo Cash at the wire. Toga Challenger and Aquamarine completed the order of finish.
Originally purchased as a 2-year-old for $575,000, the winner’s share of $120,000 increased the Stay Thirsty son’s career earnings to $216,000. His next start may be the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allan Jerkens Memorial on August 26, which will be a 1/2-furlong longer than the Amsterdam.
“We’ll see how he comes out of it,” said Pletcher. “He’s a horse with a strong pedigree and enough talent to stretch out when the time is right.”
Coal Front returned $3.20 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. Excitations brought back $4.80 to place and $4 to show, while Singing Bullet paid $4.70 to show.