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Mike previews the 2022 Sanford Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots. Impressive debut winner Forte is among the dozen 2-year-old males entered for this historic event on Saratoga’s opening weekend. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Mr. Amore Stable’s New York homebred Andiamo a Firenze will look to replicate the success of his three-quarter brother Firenze Fire when he faces 11 other talented juveniles in Saturday’s 107th renewal of the six-furlong Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Kelly Breen, the Speightstown colt made every pole a winning one in his four-length debut score against fellow state-breds, sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs over a sloppy and sealed main track on June 3 at Belmont Park. The visually-impressive win, engineered from the inside post by Irad Ortiz, Jr., registered an 80 Beyer Speed Figure.
Breen said he was pleased with the debut by Andiamo a Firenze, who posted a five-eighths breeze in 1:01.38 Saturday over Big Sandy.
“It was nice,” said Breen of the debut effort. “He only got to second gear in that race, so we’ll see. Hopefully, he has a few more gears.
“To have a horse running Opening Weekend at Saratoga is exciting,” added Breen. “He had a nice workout before shipping up to Saratoga.”
Firenze Fire, also a homebred for Ron Lombardi’s Mr. Amore Stable, is by Poseidon’s Warrior – a son of Speightstown. He won his debut in 2017 before taking the Sanford in his next start with Ortiz, Jr. in the irons. The multiple graded-stakes winning Firenze Fire, who banked in excess of $2.7 million, went on to capture the Grade 1 Champagne that fall at Belmont.
Lombardi said he’s excited to see what Andiamo a Firenze can accomplish.
“He’s doing great and he’s been training well. He’s a three-quarter brother to Firenze Fire and following in his footsteps,” said owner Ron Lombardi. “It will be a tough race. A lot of good horses [in there], but he’s training well.”
Andiamo a Firenze is out of the Langfuhr mare My Every Wish. With Ortiz, Jr. committed to riding Forte, Jose Ortiz picks up the mount aboard Andiamo a Firenze from post 9.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of top contenders in search of a record-extending ninth Sanford coup led by Forte, who earned a field-best 81 Beyer for his 7 3/4-length debut win sprinting five furlongs over Big Sandy on May 27.
“He’s been a real professional since Day One. He trained really well. You never know with a first-time starter, but I’m glad he delivered,” said Pletcher following the debut blitz.
The dark bay son of Violence is out of the Blame mare Queen Caroline, a multiple stakes-winner on turf. He is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, who co-owned last year’s Sanford winner, the Pletcher-trained Wit, with Gainesway Stable.
The $110,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase will exit post 4 under returning rider Ortiz, Jr., who is a four-time Sanford-winner.
Pletcher will also send out Major Dude, who will be piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who last won the Sanford in 2015 with Uncle Vinny, and boasts a record seven wins in the prestigious test.
The $550,000 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Select Yearling Sale purchase posted a 3 3/4-length debut triumph sprinting five furlongs on June 18 at Monmouth Park.
Major Dude exited post 5 under Velazquez and tracked between rivals in fourth position. He waited patiently for room through the turn before splitting rivals to draw away to a decisive win in a final time of 59.60.
“He handled it amazingly well for a first-time starter,” said Pletcher. “I thought it was a very professional debut and he’s always been a very straightforward and professional horse.”
The Bolt d’Oro colt’s third dam is 1988 Champion Older Filly and undefeated Hall of Famer Personal Ensign.
Major Dude will emerge from post 2.
Valenzan Day, trained and co-owned by Rudy Rodriguez with Celeritas Racing, is the lone entrant with past stakes experience, entering from a troubled third-place effort in the 5 1/2-furlong Tremont on June 9 at Belmont.
The Khozan chestnut, with returning rider Joel Rosario up, bumped with rivals at the gate and then steadied at the three-eighths before flattening out.
The $15,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase was a 2 1/4-length winner of his May 12 debut sprinting five furlongs at Belmont. The Florida-bred will hope for a better beginning this time from post 12.
Michael McLoughlin’s Curly Jack drew off to a four-length score in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on June 2 at Churchill for trainer Tom Amoss, who won the 2009 Sanford with Backtalk.
Amoss said he had considered bringing Curly Jack back in the Bashford Manor won by Gulfport on July 4 at Churchill, but opted to give his colt more time between starts as well as a half-mile breeze in 49.65 over the Saratoga main track on Monday.
“His debut race was very good,” Amoss said. “We were able to get up here and get a breeze over the track. It went well and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
Amoss said he is confident Curly Jack will be adaptable in a race full of speed types.
“I think what’s crucial to having success in some of these baby races is being able to change strategy depending upon the race setup,” Amoss said. “So, everything we did with him leading up to the race involved putting him in tight quarters, and putting him behind horses. So, I’m confident he’s got that weapon that you want every good horse to have and that is tactical speed. We can do some different things with that.”
Amoss said the Good Magic colt, who was purchased for $180,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, has progressed nicely.
“He’s a really good looking colt, a shade on the larger side, who was very athletic at the sales as a yearling when I bought him,” Amoss said. “And he maintained that look when he came back in the spring for his 2-year-old campaign. I really like how he looks now.”
He will exit post 5 under Tyler Gaffalione.
John Oxley and Breeze Easy’s Boppy O rallied to a 1 1/2-length score in his May 20 debut, sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park main track. The $190,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase earned a 60 Beyer for his stylish effort from the outermost post 8.
By Bolt d’Oro and out of the Scat Daddy mare Pappascat, Boppy O is a half-brother to the Casse-trained Grade 2-winner Pappacap.
He will leave post 1 in tandem with Dylan Davis.
Trainer Brad Cox will send out Nasser Bin Omairah’s first-out maiden winner Mo Strike for his stakes debut.
The Uncle Mo bay, a $325,000 OBS Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training purchase, stalked and pounced to a three-quarter length score in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on June 19 at Churchill Downs.
Out of the Smart Strike mare Featherbed, Mo Strike a is half-brother to 2014 Illinois Derby-winner Dynamic Impact. Florent Geroux will ride from post 6.
Orlando DiRienzo’s Puttheblameonme, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Outwork trained by Jeremiah Englehart, made easy work of his June 15 debut in an open 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Parx. The $40,000 Fasig-Tipton Fall Yearling Sale purchase was piloted that day from the outermost post 8 by Jose Ortiz.
The bay colt has breezed back twice over the Oklahoma training track, including a bullet half-mile in 48.88 seconds on July 3. He will leave post 11 in his stakes debut under Shaun Bridgmohan.
Rounding out the field are New York-bred maiden winner I’m Wide Awake [post 8, Flavien Prat]; restricted maiden winner Prove Right [post 7, Ricardo Santana, Jr.]; fourth-out maiden special weight winner Roman Giant [post 10, Jose Lezcano]; and debut maiden winner Great Navigator [post 3, Jairo Rendon].
The Sanford is slated as Race 10 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which also features the Grade 1, $500,000 Diana in Race 8. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
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