Two weekends ago, the juvenile races at Saratoga were dominated by trainer Steve Asmussen. Last weekend, it was Bill Mott’s turn to take the spotlight.
The Hall of Fame trainer, best known as the conditioner of two-time Horse of the Year Cigar, has been enjoying a strong Saratoga meet with nine wins from his first 42 starters. Two of those victories came on Saturday, courtesy of the two-year-olds Casa Creed and Mucho.
Both ran very well in their respective races, though of the pair, Mucho was by far the most exciting. The son of Blame entered Saturday’s six-furlong maiden special weight off a runner-up effort behind the talented Whiskey Echo at Belmont Park, and perhaps as a result, he was heavily supported in the wagering and started as the favorite at 2.35-1.
Suffice to say, he more than lived up to expectations. After settling in third place early on behind a :22.11 quarter-mile, Mucho moved up to take command through a half-mile in :45.27 before powering away with complete authority under jockey Jose Ortiz, leaving his rivals reeling in his way en route to a 9 ¾-length triumph in 1:10.19 seconds, earning an eye-catching 90 Beyer speed figure. Fullness of Time, a first-time starter from the barn of Chad Brown, rallied mildly to secure the runner-up spot, but he was no match for Mucho, who looms as a very exciting prospect since he’s bred to excel going longer. Could the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile be in his future?
As for Casa Creed, he was returning to action just one week after finishing sixth behind Absolutely Aiden in a maiden race at Saratoga. Saturday’s race was supposed to mark his turf and two-turn debut, but when rain caused the race to be transferred to the main track and shortened to seven furlongs, Casa Creed was ready to take advantage. Reserved in third place behind fractions of :22.53 and :45.93, Casa Creed got the jump on fellow pace-tracker Social Paranoia and pulled away from that rival in the final furlong to win by 1 ½ lengths, with the rest of the field a staggering 14 ¾ lengths behind.
Those were the major results over the weekend, though Sunday also saw a noteworthy run from Lady T N T, who won a 5 ½-furlong maiden race for fillies in gate-to-wire fashion by 5 ½ lengths. Trained by Joe Sharp, the daughter of Justin Phillip was never seriously challenged while earning a 74 Beyer and looks bound for stakes company in the near future.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the action will come fast and furious on Saturday with four juvenile races among the first six events on the card. The highlight, at least from a class perspective, is the $200,000 Adirondack Stakes (gr. III) for fillies, but since we’ve covered that race already (click here to read), we won’t rehash it here.
Much of the attention on Saturday will surely be focused on the second race, a seven-furlong open maiden race on the main track. Nine horses have been entered, including the popular #9 Southern Phantom, known for his white face and blue eyes. The son of Bodemeister didn’t show any early speed in his debut at Saratoga three weeks ago, but did rally with interest in the homestretch to finish fifth, beaten less than a length for third place. If he gets off to a more alert start on Saturday, he could be the horse to beat.
Of course, the field is loaded with first-time starters that could have bright futures, particularly #4 Chief Executive (a son of Flatter) and #7 Baffin Bay (a son of Pioneerof the Nile), two colts trained by Todd Pletcher. The powerful team of Steve Asmussen and Ricardo Santana, Jr. will team up with #8 Exchequer, a half-brother to the Group 2 winner Seahenge, while Bill Mott will attempt to keep his hot streak going with #6 Unionizer, who will add blinkers following a seventh-place finish in his debut at Belmont last month.
The fourth race of the day is an 8.5-furlong open maiden race over the Mellon Turf course. The field contains a typical blend of horses stretching out in distance and/or switching from dirt to turf, but the favorite could very well be the first-time starter #6 Rock On Kitten, a well-bred son of Kitten’s Joy trained by Michael Maker and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Rock On Kitten has trained well for his debut and should relish the surface and distance; in fact, his profile hints that he could wind up being a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) in November at Churchill Downs.
Chad Brown’s #8 Teaching Moment, stretching out off a third-place finish going six furlongs at Belmont last month, should also receive plenty of wagering support, while Pletcher sends out the first-time starter #2 Opry (a son of Declaration of War) and Bill Mott joins the fray with the second-time starter #5 Majestic Hero.
The final juvenile race of the day is another seven-furlong open maiden race scheduled as the sixth race on the card. The majority of the entrants have never raced, but the two with experience—Mott’s #5 Road Home, runner-up in a six-furlong race at Belmont, and D. Wayne Lukas’ optimistically-named #6 Derby Date, seventh in a quality maiden race at Saratoga two weeks ago—could put up a tough fight, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or the other prevail.
Mott will also send out #9 Americano, a son of Tiznow, while Pletcher conditions #4 Chase and Colorado (a son of Tapit out of the Grade 1-placed mare Anabaa’s Creation) and #7 Empire of War (another son of Declaration of War).
Enjoy the races!