Eight 2-year-old colts are ready to fire at the last Grade 1 of the Saratoga meet in Monday’s $350,000 Hopeful. The 7-furlong event will go off as Race 10 with a local post time of 5:38 p.m. ET. The 114th running of the Hopeful will be shown on Saratoga Live, presented by Claiborne Farm, airing nationally on FS2 from 4-6:30 p.m. Regional coverage of Monday’s Saratoga Live can be found on MSG+, FOX Sports Prime Ticket, and Altitude from 4-6:30 p.m.
Todd Pletcher’s Sombeyay is the field’s most established horse. After breaking his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at first asking on April 27 at Gulfstream Park, he then ran solid in the $150K Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park, finishing second despite a rough trip. The Starlight Racing-owned colt then returned to win the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes by a neck over Strike Silver here on July 21. Just like in the Sanford, he’s drawn the rail and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano.
His biggest challenge will be the up-and-coming Mucho who enters this race after an eye-popping maiden special weight score earlier this meet. The son of Blame simply ran away from his competition in that start to win by nearly 10 lengths. Jose Ortiz has retained the Bill Mott trainee’s mount when he breaks from post 7.
“Mucho is doing good,” Mott said. “He was quite impressive. I think he was kind of the buzz horse for a few days around here after winning. People were commenting on how nice he looked. I mean, visually, he looked impressive.”
The field from the rail out: Sombeyay, Mind Control, Nitrous, Thatwouldbegrand, Dream Maker, Backtohisroots, Muhco, and Derby Date.
#7 Mucho – There is no doubt that he was the most impressive maiden special weight winner of the 2018 Saratoga meet. Now he must duplicate that effort, but he’ll have no problem becoming a Grade 1 winner. After a so-so debut at Belmont Park, he exploded last out to win without much urging. That should set him up for a big run here, and he bounced back with a couple of decent works, showing that he’s ready to run a big race once again.
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#2 Mind Control – We will see if Monmouth Park form holds up at Saratoga. Mind Control was very impressive when winning a maiden special weight on the Jersey Shore, an effort that earned him a spot here, and he also gets Hall of Famer John Velazquez to ride, which is a major plus. He earned an 80 Beyer speed figure for that maiden win, which is the second-highest amongst this field. If he takes to the Saratoga surface, then he could be dangerous.
#3 Nitrous – Right from the start, this horse was hyped. He debuted at Churchill Downs as a heavy favorite but was beaten by a neck behind Strike Silver, who came back to nearly win the Sanford in his next start. Nitrous returned to win his second start, which came at Saratoga in a maiden special weight on Opening Day. In that race, he wasted little time getting to the lead before cruising around the track to win by 3 and 1/4 lengths in wire-to-wire fashion. His development will be key, as he will need to make some improvements from a speed figure standpoint if he wants to pick up the win.
#1 Sombeyay – The Sanford winner finds deeper waters here, and speed figure-wise, he will have to improve to have a shot, but it is nice to know that he definitely has an experience edge over his rivals. He is nearly a two-time stakes winner and likely would have been if not for a poor trip in the Tremont. This seems to be a logical spot for him, but other than him, we haven’t seen the normal assault from Pletcher’s juveniles this season at Saratoga.
#8 Derby Date – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won this race eight times, including last year with Sporting Chance, who was able to outlast Free Drop Billy after a dramatic stretch run. This year, Lukas brings in Derby Date, whose sire Will Take Charge won the 2013 Travers Stakes for Lukas. Derby Date is still a maiden, but he was a decent second in his latest effort, and Lukas claims that he needed that race from a fitness standpoint and shouldn’t get as tired this time. He has shown enough talent to be considered dangerous at a price if he does indeed show improvement.
#5 Dream Maker – Trainer Mark Casse has had a very tough 2018 meet at Saratoga, winning only twice. It seems like he has been saving this horse for last after he broke his maiden by 3 lengths as Churchill Downs in July. However, his speed figure is a little slow compared to some of the other horses in this race.
#4 Thatwouldbegrand – This colt ships in from Laurel after breaking his maiden last time out by over 3 lengths in a maiden special weight. In that race, he fell behind the leaders early but was able to close with a nice move down the lane. The major question mark here will be how his Laurel form equates to Saratoga, as this competition is much tougher.
#6 Backtohisroots – He’ll be going from maiden claiming company to a Grade 1, which is the biggest class jump in racing. This will be his first start for trainer John Terranova, who claimed him last time out for $50,000. From a speed figure standpoint, he has a lot of improving to do if he wants to have a chance.