With opening day of the Saratoga meet quickly approaching, the promise of 40 days of exciting horse racing looms featuring the stars of today converging with the future prospects of tomorrow.
When it comes to finding the future stars of horse racing at Saratoga, the story begins with the “Pletcher Two-Year Olds.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher will look to continue his streak of six straight training titles at Saratoga Race Course this summer. Led by a group of new, bright two-year old juveniles, Pletcher should have a very good chance to add to his 12 overall training titles at “The Spa.”
Pletcher’s dominance at Saratoga has been predicated to a great extent on his two-year old program. A large chunk of those trainer title wins have come from Saratoga’s famed “baby” races. To illustrate, in the last three seasons, 41 of Pletchers’ total 98 wins have come in two-year old races.
Juveniles that have either debuted or won Stakes at Saratoga for Pletcher over that time include eventual 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria, 2015 Bluegrass Stakes winner Carpe Diem, 2015 Pat Day Mile winner Competitive Edge and 2016 Mother Goose winner Off The Tracks.
The list of names over the years that Pletcher ran as juveniles at Saratoga include stars like Hall of Famer Ashado, 2007 Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo and 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice.
Who’s the Next Star?
The Pletcher two-year old program has been in full swing since mid-May in Saratoga with their barns set up next to the Oklahoma training track. Additionally, the program has already had early success at Belmont and Monmouth leading into the Saratoga meet.
“We had Bronson and Sweet Loretta (win) first time out at Monmouth, the two stakes winners at Belmont (Silver Mission and Bode’s Dream) and the two More Than Ready’s that won (Bahama Halo and Made You Look) on the grass 6-furlongs (in late June),” said Pletcher standing outside his Saratoga barn on the morning of June 25.
Pletcher said he would focus this group on the early two-year old stakes at Saratoga.
Starting on opening day, Pletcher will have two options in Sweet Loretta and Bode’s Dream for the six-furlong Grade-3 Schuylerville for juvenile fillies. After drawing off by seven lengths to break her maiden at 5 furlongs in her debut at Monmouth on June 18, Sweet Loretta (sired by Tapit) has remained training at Monmouth with the Schuylerville as a possible target. As a $750,000 purchase as a weanling at the 2014 Keeneland November sale, Sweet Loretta provides great upside for her connections.
The 5½ furlong Astoria Stakes winner Bode’s Dream (sired by Bodemeister) is a perfect 2-for-2 in her career and put in her first work over the Saratoga main track on July 7. Both Sweet Loretta and Bode’s Dream are owned by the St. Elias Stable, so it is possible that only one will run in the Schuylerville.
Another filly nominated to the Grade-3 Schuylerville for the St. Elias Stable is Nonna Mela after her maiden breaking win by over 7 lengths at Monmouth on July 2. The Arch filly out of the Storm Cat mare Cool Storm sold for $310,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Two unraced fillies owned by Eclipse Thoroughbreds are also nominated to the Schuylerville for Pletcher in Jumby Bay and Seam, who have both been working out at Saratoga. For more info on Pletcher’s unraced colts and fillies, please see the table at the end of this article.
Pletcher’s top possible entrant for the Grade-3 Sanford for juveniles on July 23 is clearer, as Bronson looks to be one of the early stars in the barn. Sired by Medaglia d’Oro and sold for $350,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Bronson has the pedigree for longer distances. Still, he had no problem at five furlongs taking over late to break his maiden at first asking at Monmouth on June 18.
New York-bred Silver Mission won the Tremont Stakes on June 10 at Belmont. Pletcher said he will be pointed to the Rockville Center Stakes for NY-bred juveniles to close out the Belmont meet on July 16. If all goes well there, it may be possible to see the son of Mission Impazible come up to Saratoga to try to capture the premiere two-year old NY-bred Funny Cide Stakes on August 26.
On the turf, Pletcher may wait to bring back Made You Look until the Grade-3 With Anticipation Stakes at 1 & 1/16 miles on August 31. Made You Look took his second career start at Belmont at six furlongs on June 18 after placing second in his debut behind a top juvenile turfer in Red Lodge. Sired by More Than Ready out of the Unbridled Song mare Night and Day, the stretch out in distance should not be an issue.
The filly Bahama Halo is another sired by More Than Ready and out of the Empire Maker mare Bahama Bound. After winning at 6 furlongs in her second career race at Belmont on June 22, it is speculated that she may be a candidate for the 5½ furlong Bolton Landing on August 17 or a stretch out to 1 & 1/16 miles in the P.G. Johnson on September 1.
“Those would be the first ones and then depending on how some maidens run between now and the next round of stakes, we’ll just have to see,” Pletcher said. “It’s off to a promising beginning, but we’ll see how the next wave progresses.”
The Next Wave
Pletcher said he doesn’t have plans to run any of his juveniles in the weeks leading up to Saratoga and will wait until the beginning of the meet to unveil his “next wave.”
Assistant trainer Tristan Barry has been responsible for getting the juveniles primed, as he has run the Saratoga barn for Pletcher for the past 9 years. Overall, Barry has worked for Pletcher for 17 years and has a unique approach when evaluating his juveniles.
“The price tag doesn’t matter,” Barry said in early June while watching morning workouts on the Oklahoma training track. “They’re in the big leagues now and have to prove it on the track. A lot changes in the next two months.”
Barry made the analogy to comparing his young horses to first round draft picks in professional sports pointing out that only some of the big price horses will live up to their promise.
When looking at the big price horses working out for the Pletcher barn in Saratoga, the discussion starts with the Tapits. One of the more noticeable fillies in the barn is Tapella out of the Any Given Sunday mare Princess Arabella, who was an undefeated 3-for- 3 in her career including the 2012 Sunland Park Oaks. Tapella was sold for $750,000 during the 2015 Saratoga Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale in August. She has only recorded one official work on June 10, but is one to watch.
“She’s a very attractive filly,” said Pletcher. “She’s a very typical Tapit and has a nice way of going. She’s one that we’ll be thinking about a little bit later in the meet (to debut).”
Another high-priced Tapit filly is Chocolate Souffle, who was a $975,000 RNA (Reserve Not Achieved) at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Out of the 2012 Grade-3 Allaire Dupont Distaff winner Super Espresso and sired by Medaglia D’Oro, Chocolate Souffle has put in two works at Saratoga on July 1 and 8 for the Pletcher team.
Another horse that will get attention based mainly on his name is Syndergaard. Named after New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, the colt has been working steadily at Saratoga all summer recording 6 works since May 25.
“He worked well,” said Pletcher referring to his work on June 25. “He’s a New York bred, so we’ll look to run him in a New York-bred maiden, hopefully here at Saratoga later in the meet. He’s a big leggy colt and so far he’s done well with what little we’ve done with him.”
Leading the high priced colts, Master Plan sired by Twirling Candy is a top Pletcher juvenile who rang up $850,000 at the 2016 Ocala Breeder’s Sale (OBS) Two-Year Olds in Training in March. Sold to the partnership of Al Shaqab Racing, Winstar and the China Horse Club, Master Plan will have many eyes on him if he debuts at Saratoga. He has worked five times at Saratoga including a stretch-out to five furlongs on July 1.
“(Master Plan) breezed a half (on June 24), his third half,” said Pletcher. “He acts like a nice colt so far, but we’re still a little ways away from getting a great barometer on most of these.”
Pletcher stressed that, “The next two or three works will tell us a lot about most of them.”
The weeks leading up to Saratoga mean a lot for all the connections involved and the hopes for a bright meet for the Pletcher team.
Below is a list of some more Pletcher two-year olds that have been working out at Saratoga and to watch out for at the meet.
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