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Aaron previews the 2022 Vosburgh Stakes (G2) at Belmont at the Big A, then gives his top picks and longshots from this “Win & You’re In” for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The red-hot Elite Power brings his 3-race win streak into a short field featuring just 4 rivals; is he perfectly placed to win his stakes debut? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin D. Hilbert and Thomas E. O’Keefe’s Drafted will vie for his third graded victory of the year in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Vosburgh, a seven-furlong main track sprint for 3-year-olds and up, at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
The winner of the Vosburgh will earn a berth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 5 at Keeneland as part of the “Win And You’re In” qualifying series.
Drafted, an 8-year-old Field Commission gelding, enters from a non-threatening fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course where he flashed his usual come-from-behind tactics, but could not catch up to one-two finishers Cody’s Wish and reigning Champion Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior.
“They were just too good,” said conditioner David Duggan. “We know we’re not quite good enough in Grade 1s, but we’re competitive at Grade 2 level, so we’re taking a shot here.”
Drafted began his career with a win in 2016 at Keeneland and made just two stateside outings before shipping to the United Arab Emirates for his next three seasons of racing with trainer Doug Watson, earning Group 3 victories in 2019 in the Al Shindagha Sprint and Mahab Al Shimaal, both at Meydan Racecourse. He returned to America in February 2020 to begin his current tenure with Duggan.
Drafted struggled to find his best stride when winless in his first eight starts for Duggan, but broke through in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap in February at Aqueduct Racetrack with a strong last-to-first 4 1/2-length triumph under jockey Jose Ortiz. He followed with a distant fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap behind Speaker’s Corner at the Big A, but bounced back quickly with a one-length score in the Grade 3 Runhappy in May at Belmont Park.
He went on to capture the Mr. Prospector in June at Monmouth Park en route to a gutsy runner-up effort to Whereshetoldmetogo in the Alapocas Run on July 2 at Delaware Park, rallying to nip No Cents at the wire and secure place honors by a nose before his run in the Forego.
Duggan said that seven furlongs best suits Drafted’s running style.
“Seven is a good tip for him, versus with six, he needs a very fast pace,” said Duggan. “He has to be left alone early. We’ve put him in the race before and it just hasn’t worked. He takes a deep breath and makes one move, and that’s been what works. He’s spitting fire right now, so we’ll see.”
Since the Forego, Drafted has posted two works over Belmont Park’s dirt training track, including a bullet half-mile in 47.60 seconds on September 20. He most recently coasted through five-eighths in 1:01 flat on September 30.
“He’s always been a fast worker,” said Duggan. “He worked well [on the 30th].”
Duggan added that despite Drafted’s age and the many miles he has traveled, the veteran gelding still loves his job and trains with gusto.
“From a physical perspective, he couldn’t be doing any better for an older guy,” said Duggan. “You wouldn’t think [of his age] when you’re galloping him. He’s energetic and he’s been our stable star, which is great. You want to be competitive, and he’s brought us back into the spotlight a little bit.”
Kendrick Carmouche will ride Drafted from the outermost post 5.
Juddmonte’s 4-year-old Elite Power streaks into the Vosburgh off a trio of victories for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. A son of Curlin, Elite Power raced twice at 3 and returned to the races from a six-month layoff in May to finish third in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs. He stretched out a furlong and graduated by nine lengths in his next outing in June at the same track, defeating next-out winner Legionnaire.
The chestnut colt followed with a 3 1/4-length score in a one-mile first-level allowance before traveling to Saratoga Race Course on September 3 for his first start outside of Churchill after making his first five outings at the Louisville oval. At the Spa, he cut back to six furlongs and bested optional claiming company by 3 1/2 lengths under Joel Rosario, rallying from 7 1/2 lengths off the pace to claim his third consecutive victory in a final time of 1:09.06.
Mott said maturity has helped Elite Power flourish this year.
“As a 3-year-old, he suffered from some shin issues so he got started late,” said Mott. “But now he’s matured. I think outgrowing it was part of it. Time usually takes care of those things.”
Elite Power will exit post 4 in rein to Jose Lezcano.
Trainer Norman Cash will saddle two contenders for owners Built Wright Stables in Jalen Journey [post 2, Dylan Davis] and Eastern Bay [post 3, Javier Castellano].
Jalen Journey, a 7-year-old With Distinction ridgling, makes a quick turnaround from a distant third-place finish in the Liberty Bell on Monday at Parx. There, he rallied well from seven lengths off the pace in seventh to improve his position throughout and come up 8 1/2 lengths shy of the victorious Fortheluvofbourbon.
Two of Jalen Journey’s last three victories have come via disqualification, most recently in the Chesapeake on August 16 at Colonial Downs where he finished a neck behind Necker Island but was elevated to first due to Necker Island’s interference with third-place finisher Factor It In in the stretch. He earned a graded victory when elevated to first in the Grade 3 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park last September.
Eastern Bay, an 8-year-old son of E Dubai, has shown an affinity for the main track at Laurel where he has posted five wins this year at the starter or allowance optional claiming level. The bay gelding was last seen earning his sixth win of the year on September 28 in an allowance at Parx Racing, closing from last-of-4 to score the two-length victory. That effort came on the heels of a close runner-up finish to stablemate Sir Alfred James in the Russell Road on August 26 at Charles Town, equaling his career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 96.
Completing the field is Klaravich Stables’ Southern District [post 1, Manny Franco], who makes his graded debut for four-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Chad Brown.
A 4-year-old son of Union Rags, Southern District was last seen finishing a well-beaten fourth in the restricted Tale of the Cat on August 10 at the Spa after trailing throughout and never firing under Franco. Southern District earned a career-best 101 Beyer two starts back for a two-length optional claiming score on June 10 at Churchill Downs.
The Vosburgh is slated as Race 5 on Saturday’s 11-race program, which also features the Grade 3, $150,000 Matron in Race 6 and the Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic in Race 8. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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