The 2-year-old colts will set their sights on Saratoga glory beginning this Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford Stakes. The race is the first stepping stone to the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at the end of the meet and has drawn a field of eight for this year’s running. The event is scheduled for race nine on a star-studded 11-race card that is sure to make Opening Saturday very exciting at The Spa.
One of the best things about racing at Saratoga and Del Mar is seeing new runners coming from freshman sires, and the Sanford will feature just that. Bano Solo, from the first crop by sire Goldencents, headlines this event after an impressive maiden special weight win at Churchill Downs on debut. He was geared down in the stretch and was still able to win by multiple lengths. Trainer Steve Asmussen is excited about his juvenile.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will obviously have a lot to say in the 2-year-old races at Saratoga, as he seemingly wins with everything that he brings over. In this particular race, he has two entries: the $150,000 Tremont Stakes runner-up Sombeyay and Belmont Park debut winner Lexitonian. Both horses showed promise early in their careers, and both give Pletcher a solid shot in this race.
The full field from the rail out: Sombeyay, Lexitonian, Knicks Go, Whiskey Echo, Dream Maker, Chase Greatness, Bano Solo, and Strike Silver.
#7 Bano Solo – Visually, he was the most impressive debut winner at Churchill Downs during the spring/summer meet. Asmussen has had nothing but good things to say about this son of Goldencents after he cruised to a 3-length win on debut while being geared down towards the end of the race. The colt seemed to be very professional in that debut race as well, which will be very important as he moves up in class. This outside post position draw should work out well for him, as he can stalk the early speed that drew inside of him.
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#8 Strike Silver – Trainer Mark Casse has unleashed a fury of horses for the first pair of 2-year-old stakes of the meet, and this could be his most impressive one so far. Strike Silver was a nice debut winner at Churchill Downs, winning by a neck over Nitrous, who is entered in a maiden special weight on this same card, and that debut came back with a very solid time and speed figure. If Nitrous wheels back to win earlier in the card, then it will make Strike Silver look even better heading into this race. Casse should be set for a nice first two days of the meet.
#2 Lexitonian – He was a sharp maiden special weight winner for Pletcher last time out at Belmont Park and has the look of a horse that can come up to Saratoga and win early. Pletcher is always sharp with debut runners, and he also is very good in these early stakes races. Lexitonian was able to sit off the pace and win in his only start, which could be a positive sign, but he draws inside here, which could be a challenge.
#1 Sombeyay – Last time out, he nearly became a stakes winner, finishing second in the Tremont. That race fell apart late as several horses closed in the final few yards for what became a blanket finish. The pace may not fall apart here quite like it did in that last start for Sombeyay, but it’s likely that he will be closing late. If the pace does get it hot, it increases his chances even more, and you know that Pletcher will have him ready to fire.
#5 Dream Maker – He was solid on debut, winning by 3 lengths at Churchill Downs and earning a 66 Beyer speed figure. The competition will get a lot tougher here, but you have to like how this horse was able to win from off the pace. These 2-year-old stakes are usually loaded with speed, which makes a closer dangerous. However, this horse was not ultra-flashy on debut, so perhaps coming up late to hit the board is his ceiling here.
#6 Chase Greatness – This Churchill Downs shipper will look to make it two in a row after breaking his maiden last time out by a 1/2-length. The speed figure for that race came back very fast, but the race was run over a sloppy surface, so it is hard to know how that form will translate here. That race was also originally scheduled for the turf, which makes you wonder if this horse is more suited for the grass. Regardless, if he can repeat that performance on what will likely be a fast track, then he can win here at a decent price.
#4 Whiskey Echo – If you go by speed figures, this colt looks like he will have a tough time here, as he only received a 57 Beyer for his debut win. However, he did win that race by over 3 lengths, so perhaps he is better than the numbers indicate. In a race like this, it is hard to eliminate anyone, but that low figure is enough to take a stand against this horse.
#3 Knicks Go – Much like Whiskey Echo, this horse was an impressive debut winner, but his speed figure did not come back all that strong. Also, he won at Ellis Park, which will make this a big jump up in class for him. Those are two factors that might make it tough for him in what seems to be a pretty solid field.
BANO SOLO was the most impressive Churchill Downs maiden special weight winner this year, and comes into this race looking sharp. STRIKE SILVER also was impressive on debut at Churchill Downs. Keep an eye on Nitrous earlier in the card. If he runs well that will bode well for Strike Silver, who defeated Nitrous last time out. LEXITONIAN and SOMBEYAY will give trainer Todd Pletcher a nice 1-2 punch in this spot. Pletcher is always one you must respect in these early Saratoga 2 year old races.