They’re off – you lose – at Saratoga is what one might say to anyone hoping to win this summer’s training title who is not named Todd Pletcher. The Toddster is off to a flying start with five winners from his first 11 starters after the first three days; with two seconds and a third to boot. Sure, it’s far too early to hand him the crown, but would anybody really want to have their money on anyone else?
To many, the most confounding of Pletcher’s five winners may have been Coaching Club American Oaks winner Stopchargingmaria; and we say that despite the fact that she won as the 6-5 favorite. Didn’t matter which speed figures we “experts” were armed with – ours, the Beyers, or BRIS – Unbridled Forever was clearly the faster filly on paper. We all smugly smirked at all of the know-nothings who were on track to pick up a free Saratoga cap who reflexively flocked toward Pletcher’s filly. But they all got the last laugh when Stopchargingmaria (by Tale of the Cat) toyed with the “faster” filly, destroying her by five lengths, earning a TFUS Speed Figure of 102 that easily exceeds her prior best of 95. (Her Beyer of 92 is also a career best.) The winner’s raw final time figure of 103 was downgraded by a point to reflect moderate TimeformUS Pace Figures of 97 / 99 to the 1/2 and 3/4 marks respectively (in what was essentially a steady 24 second per quarter pace to that point). Here’s the replay:
Three of the Toddster’s four other winners were two-year olds, leading off with Fashion Alert ($2.40). This daughter of Old Fashioned (currently #3 on the second-crop sire list, by earnings) took the opening day Schuylerville after surviving a punishing pace battle with Churchill invader Take Charge Brandi, and managing to get home first in an exhausting and exhausted final furlong that took nearly 14 seconds to complete. Note, in the result chart below, the big early pace figures and the significant upgrades, in deference to the hot pace, from the raw final time figures to each filly’s TimeformUS Speed Figure. And yes, Take Charge Brandi actually earned the better speed figure of the two.
In the opener on Saturday, Kamarius ($11.20) shook off a dead-on-the-board-and-track debut on dirt and scored an easy win on the grass over the heavily-favored Wesley Ward/Frankie Dettori first-time starter Luck of the Kitten. Son of Candy Ride earned a TFUS Speed Figure of 73. Kamarius is out of a winning, on grass in France, Atticus mare who also produced Sarach, the winner of the G2 Honeymoon on the grass at Hollywood Park last year. This is a rich distaff family; the second dam is the multiple Grade 1 winner Gorgeous, and this is the family of the champion turf runner Fantastic Light, as well as numerous other notable winners on both turf and dirt. And in the 4th that day, Pletcher scored with his first overbet 2YO first-timer of the meet; Blame Jim ($3.90), another easy winner, was assigned a solid TFUS Speed Figure of 87. A Mike Repole homebred, he is by the Florida Derby runner-up Sharp Humor, out of a winless mare by Deerhound (an obscure, and deceased, stallion son of Danzig, to whom Blame Jim is inbred 4×3). The dam is a half-sister to Bwana Charlie, who won the Amsterdam at Saratoga, and to the Super Derby winner My Pal Charlie.
The fifth winner for Pletcher was All Included ($3.90), who took the finale on Saturday. This was a horse who, to be honest, came up light on our speed figures as compared to the Beyers, on which basis he was bet down to that price. Fair enough. Having said that, and on the other hand, there was Saturday’s G3 Sanford Stakes for two-year olds, won by Big Trouble ($25.60). Trained by Anthony Dutrow (one of five trainers tied for second in the early standings with two winners after Sunday), he had the second lowest last-out Beyer (46); but was quite competitive on our numbers with a TimeformUS Speed Figure of 80. The son of Tiz Wonderful (who won his debut over this track) prevailed right at the wire over fellow 11-1 shot Mr. Z after the two exchanged solid bumps midstretch. It was quite a lucrative win for the connections, who collected an extra $100,000 – a bonus for winning a 2YO graded stakes at Saratoga after graduating at Belmont – on top of the $90,000 winner’s share. Nice! The replay of the Sanford is below: