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Preview of the Saratoga Two Year-old Racing

Is it too early to start thinking about Saratoga?  The meeting opens on Friday, July 20th, and that is less than three weeks away. It was not too soon for me. I needed to get a preview of the magic of the racetrack known as the Spa. So I spent a few days in Saratoga last week taking in the morning workouts and hanging out in a downtown that was already getting busy.
The 2012 Saratoga meeting has the best racing in the country featuring 16 grade one stakes races. The Spa is also known as a place where many of the most fashionably bred two year-olds make their debuts. In the spring NYRA announced the purse structure for maiden races, which is of course aided by the Aqueduct racino funds, “At Saratoga, maiden sprints will be worth $80,000, compared with $50,000 in 2011, and routes will be worth $85,000, compared with $51,000.” 
A majority of the horses, that make an early arrival at Saratoga to train on the Oklahoma training track, are two year-olds. Todd Pletcher already has five or six full barns right behind the clocker’s stand. The action at Pletcher’s barn was fast and furious. The training track stayed open until 11:00am during which time sets of 10 to 12 horses would come out of his barn every half hour or so. The horses are walked in front of Pletcher before they head to the track for their morning exercise. Each time Pletcher would make the short walk to the track with his binoculars in one hand and a coffee in the other. His stopwatch hung out of his back pocket.
At the rail he would chat with an owner while he put his binoculars on his horses as they jogged.  When he took out his stopwatch you knew one of the more promising babies was going to breeze.
Pletcher has already had a couple of promising two year-olds win at Belmont. On June 27 Shanghai Bobby won the five and a half furlong Track Barron Stakes in 1:02.87, which earned 93 BSF.  The Harlan’s Holiday colt was purchased for $105,000 at the Keeneland September 2011 sale by Starlight Racing.
In the third race on June 28, Onetwentyeight shipped downstate from Saratoga to win a maiden race in 1:04.33 for the Repole Stable. This Discreet Cat colt was a $150,000 purchase at the March Ocala two year-old sale. The Racing Form chart said that, “Onetwentyeight was safely in front with a furlong out and extended to the margin thereafter.” Ridden by Javier Castellano he ended up with a five-length victory.
{In the Horse Racing Nation two year-old rankings Shangai Bobby is ranked 2 and Onetwentyeight holds the 10 spot.}
Each morning Oklahoma was filled mostly with the horses of a few trainers with the biggest strings. In addition to Pletcher, Nick Zito, Linda Rice, Bill Mott, Ralph Nicks, Christophe Clement, and Chad Brown have full barns. Zito’s horses have a distinctive NPZ on the saddlecloth. All of Linda Rice’s riders wear a florescent yellow cap in addition to her LR marking. Bill Mott’s horses have a green saddlecloth decorated with a white diamond. Ralph Nicks has green and red colors marking a design of his initials. A bold yellow CC distinguishes Clement’s navy blue saddlecloths. Chad Brown’s workers can be identified by his CB on a blue saddle pad.
How important is two year-old racing at Saratoga? Here is a long list of Juvenile Champions since 1980 that have run at least once as a two year-old at the Spa: 1980 Lord Avie and Heavenly Cause, 1981 Before Dawn, 1983 Devil’s Bag, 1984 Chief’s Crown and Outstandingly, 1985 Family Style, 1987 Forty Niner and Epitome, 1988 Easy Goer, 1989 Rhythm, 1990 Meadow Star, 1993 Dehere, 1994 Flanders, 1995 Maria’s Mon and Golden Attraction, 1996 Boston Harbor and Storm Song, 1997 Favorite Trick and Countess Diana, 2000 Macho Uno, 2005 Folklore, 2007 War Pass and Indian Blessing, 2010 Uncle Mo, and 2011 My Miss Aurelia.
In the first condition book for the 2012 Saratoga meeting 19 races are carded for the two year-olds at distances from five furlongs on the main track to a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. During the summer there are eight stakes for juveniles and seven of them are graded. Will there be a champion running in one of these races?  


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Older Comments about Preview of the Saratoga Two Year-old Racing...

Pletcher sent a Discreet Cat 2YO from Saratoga to Monmouth to romp first time out beating a Big Brown colt that took all the money.
Super pumped about Saratoga, though I don't get that rule limiting 2yo sprints to 8 runners & routes to 10 runners.
it's a great time of the year when the SPA opens......Racing at it's finest !!!!!!!
What about Kenny McPeek and his Frac Daddy, Corthianna, Bold Challenger and Tiz Tebow Time?
one of the hardest lessons i have learned in the past year is not to get too excited about any two year old...
What about Kenny McPeek and his Frac Daddy, Corthianna, Bold Challenger and Tiz Tebow Time?
Can't wait for these races!
You have to love this time of year. I, for one, am quite eager to see all the action at the Spa!
FUnny bit of trivia, but Secretariasts ONLY race to have NOT been favored was exactly the same race where Upset triumphed over MOW all those years ago. That place is akin to a walking breathing history lesson.
One of the many great things about Saratoga is all those wonderful juveniles hitting the racing scene. Hard not to get excited about what may be!

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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