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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Wit tracked off the speed before drawing away to a win in hand in his debut last month. On Saturday, the Practical Joke colt went back to the same playbook in his stakes bow, handily besting an 11-horse field by 8 lengths in the $150,000 Sanford (G3) for 2-year-olds sprinting 6 furlongs at Saratoga Race Course.
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The 106th edition of the Sanford saw Wit, who won by 6lengths going 5 1/2 furlongs on June 5 at Belmont Park, off a step slow. 47/1 longshot Trust Our Journey set the pace, breaking from the inside post as jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. kept Wit to the inside in fifth position as the opening 1/4-mile went 22.68 seconds on the good main track.
Trust Our Journey stayed in front with the 1/2 in 46.08 as Wit moved up to third surging along the outside. Ortiz Jr. kept Wit to the outside out of the turn and his charge thrived with open running room in front of him in the stretch, gaining separation in completing the course in 1:11.20, never being seriously challenged by runner-up Headline Report.
Wit, owned by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable, gave Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher his eighth career Sanford victory. The $575,000 purchase at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale – bred in Kentucky by Rosilyn Polan – returned $4.20 on a $2 win wager.
“He broke a little better from the gate today, then Irad hustled him away from there, gathered him up, and the horse took him there,” said Tristan Barry, assistant to Pletcher. “He probably had to move a little earlier than he wanted just to get to that outside position, and then he flew on by from there. He’s a very nice horse. I loved what he did.”
Ortiz Jr. won the Sanford for a second straight year after piloting By Your Side in 2020. The 3-time Eclipse Award-winning rider has won this race 4 times overall with four different trainers.
“He’s not a great horse breaking out of there,” Ortiz Jr. said. “I gave him the time to find his stride, and he did. By the half-mile, he started getting into a rhythm and he wanted to improve his position, so I started letting him do it by his own. By the three-eighths pole, I had to call his attention and he responded right away.
“For a 2-year-old that was very impressive. He’s a nice horse,” he added.
Pletcher’s first Sanford win came with More Than Ready in 1999 and his previous score was with Sombeyay in 2018.
Breeze Easy’s Headline Report, a first-out winner in April at Keeneland for trainer Wesley Ward, was 5 1/2 lengths clear of Dance Code for runner-up honors under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“He ran a great race. Obviously, Todd’s horse was just much the best today and that was it,” Velazquez said.
Ward said Headline Report could target the $300,000 Hopeful (G1) going 7 furlongs on Saratoga’s Closing Day Monday, September 6.
“I was really happy with him. It was a perfect trip. We’ll be back for the Hopeful,” Ward said.
Ottoman Empire, Kavod, Candy Landing, Trust Our Journey, Seize the Night, Due Vini, Maryland Brando, and Lucago completed the order of finish. Catch the Smoke scratched.
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