The Saratoga Special

Monday’s G2 Saratoga Special Stakes features six promising 2-year-old colts running for a purse of $150,000. This historic race has been won by the likes of Blue Larkspur, Bimelech, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Turn-To, and Nearctic, and more recently Conquistador Cielo, Swale, Chief’s Crown, Gulch, and Favorite Trick.

The 7-5 favorite on the morning line is Todd Pletcher’s Stat. A son of Unbridled’s Song, he won his only start as the heavy favorite by two lengths. There is some concern that Trade and Street Fight, who finished second and third respectively, came back to finish 6th and 9th on August 6th.

As mentioned, Stat is by Unbridled’s Song, and he is out of the Gilded Time mare Di’s Time, a stakes winner at 6 furlongs. He is a half to four winners, including Lenaro, by Buddha, who broke her maiden on debut at age two and subsequently finished 3rd in the Debutante Stakes(G3). He’s also a half sibling to an Orientate filly named Ms Di Pantoja, who broke her maiden in the claiming ranks at age two. Neither of his other siblings won at age two, though Charlotte’s Di was multiple stakes-placed at six furlongs at age five.

The second morning line choice is Trinniberg, a son of Teuflesberg who won wire-to-wire in his debut at Calder. The horse he defeated by 5 3/4, Bob’s Place, broke his maiden in his next start over the third-place finisher in Trinniberg’s debut, Twin. He’s out of the Goldminers Gold mare Bella Dorato, who is a half sister to the Minardi mare Jovanna. Jovanna won her debut at 2 and finished 2nd in the Finger Lakes Juvenile Fillies Stakes. Bella Dorato is also a half to Dream of Kaylee, by Cactus Ridge, who ran 3rd in the Kentucky Stakes(G3) on his debut and then returned to break his maiden in his next start. Trinniberg is a half to the Shaniko colt Troponin, who did win twice at age two, despite those being a maiden claiming and claiming $25k race.

Union Rags is 5-1 on the morning line. This Michael Matz trainee won his first race by 1 3/4 at Delaware Park after sitting off the early pace. He has since put in a bullet four furlong work at Saratoga on August 9th, completing the work handily in :47.66. His pedigree is intriguing, being inbred 3×4 to Northern Dancer and 4×3 to Mr. Prospector. That’s not to mention his female family. His third dam, Glad Rags, was the ’65 Champion 2 year old filly in Ireland, and the dam of Gorytus(by Nijinsky II), who was 2-for-2 at age 2, including a G2 win. Glad Rags was also the dam of Mirthful Flirt(by Raise a Native), who was 2-for-3 at age 2, including a G3 win and place. Union Rags’ second dam, Terpsichorus, was a G2 winner who banked over $400k from 28 starts. His dam Tempo won the first 2 starts of her career at 6 furlongs, and then ran second at a mile in what would be her third and final start.

Co-third choice on the morning line is Indian Evening. This Josie Carroll-trained son of Indian Charlie and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unenchantedevening won his debut at Woodbine from off the pace over 2 horses who would break their maiden in their next start – one of those in a stakes. His second dam, Evil Elaine, by Medieval Man, won her 2-year-old debut in a maiden claiming at Belmont but proceeded to be competitive in juvenile stakes races at Del Mar, including a win in the Coronado Stakes. She is a full sister to Ravensmoor, who was undefeated in three starts at 2, including Hialeah’s Hibiscus Stakes.

Evil Elaine went on to be a successful broodmare, her most notable progeny being 1997 Champion 2 Year Old Male and Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, by Phone Trick. This is Unenchanted Evening’s first foal, but when one considers the family, leave Indian Evening out of your bets at your own risk.

Banner Bill, at 6-1 on the morning line, is 3-for-3 thus far in his career, including 2 stakes wins, but all three came on the Woodbine polytrack surface. However, this son of Rockport Harbor has a nice pedigree to live up to. His third dam, Midnight Rapture, was graded stakes placed at two. His second dam, Lemhi Go, was much less precocious, not breaking her maiden until July of her 3-year-old season, but was a G2 winner. She was better at a route of ground, though, with her G2 victory coming in the 1 1/2 mile La Prevoyante Invitational Handicap.

The longest shot on the morning line is Italo at 10-1. This will be the Wesley Ward trainee’s first start in the States, but he broke his maiden in his debut at Longchamp. He shows a bullet 4 furlong breeze at Aqueduct on July 10th, suggesting he will handle the dirt just fine. While he doesn’t appear to have the class and ability of the rest of these, you never know how a horse will improve at this young age.

My top selection in this race will be #4 Indian Evening. If he can handle the dirt he should be tough to beat. Trinniberg will be my second choice, as he appears to be the horse who should get the lead, and while any of them could easily round out the trifecta, I’ll go with the highly regarded Stat to run well but not quite up to expectations. Keep an eye on all horses who run well here, though, as they’ll likely be pointed for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile later in the season.

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