The 2016 Saratoga Special (G2) is the second leg of a trio of graded stakes races carded for two year old colts at Saratoga. The other events are the Sanford (G3) and Hopeful Stakes (G1). Only four youngsters have swept the series since 1913.
In three of the last five years, the top three finishers in the Saratoga Special have had an impact on the Triple Crown, and surprisingly to a lesser extent, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The 2011 Saratoga Special winner Union Rags was a heartbreaking second in the BC Juvenile and was denied the Eclipse Award for 2YO Champ. The son of Dixie Union came back bigger and stronger the following year to capture the Belmont Stakes.
Danza placed third in the 2013 Saratoga Special. After the Saratoga Special, the lightly raced but talented son of Street Boss was out of action until his three-year-old season. He won the Arkansas Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby before being injured and retired.
Last year, Exaggerator shipped in from California to capture the Saratoga Special, and no, it wasn’t over a sloppy track. Something to remember should the Preakness winner point for the Travers Stakes.
This year, none of the colts who raced in the Sanford Stakes have returned for a shot at the Saratoga Special. Instead, we have five new colts to review, two of whom, Recruiting Ready and Tip Tap Tapizar, last raced in the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill.
Freshmen Sire Progeny Dominate
Recruiting Ready (Algorithms - Need, by Strong Hope) set blazing fractions of 21.73, 45, and 56.90 in the six-furlong Bashford Manor Stakes before being passed late by Classic Empire. The son Algorithms was ½ length behind the winner and got his final 1/8 in a solid 12.59, considering how fast his early fractions were. It was nine lengths back to Tip Tap Tapizar. Trainer Horacio DePaz, a Todd Pletcher protégée, takes the blinkers off of Recruiting Ready to tone down the speed a little. He gave Recruiting Ready a pre-race bullet 5F breeze.
Pedigree: Recruiting Ready’s pedigree is filled with Claiborne bloodlines. His Freshmen Sire Algorithms, a lightly raced son of Bernardini, is part of the Ava Knowsthecode clan. He’s a full brother to the talented (but also fragile) Greenpointcrusader, plus He’s a half brother to the stakes veteran Justin Phillip, Keyed Entry, etc. Algorithms is off to an excellent start at stud. Half of his 12 starters are winners and three own blacktype earnings. His babies should improve with maturity. Stakes winners in Recruiting Ready’s distaff line include his second dam, multiple G3 sprinter/miler Trip, plus Grade 1 winning sprinter Zensational and turf miler Departing, to name a few.
Tip Tap Tapizar (Tapizar - Counterpoise, by Storm Cat) kept the heat on Recruiting Ready in the early stages of the Bashford Manor, but wasn’t able to keep up. Tip Tap Tapizar ducked from the whip in the stretch, his head came up and he slowed down. Still managed to finish 9 ¼ lengths behind the winner. This is a large, heavy colt who resembles his sire. (Tapizar resembles his damsire Deputy Minister). The budding two year old should improve with maturity. Tip Tap Tapizar is trained by Steve Asmussen, who also conditioned Tapizar.
Pedigree: First crop sire Tapizar is a multiple graded stakes winner at 8 – 8.5F. He went out on a high note, winning the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The son of Tapit was popular with breeders and Tapizar has 100 foals in his first crop. 17 have raced, 5 are winners and 2 own blacktype earnings. Tip Tap Tapizar’s dam Counterpoise is a half-sister to the multiple stakes winner and sire Peaks and Valleys. She’s also a half-sister to Alternate, a talented mare who handled dirt and turf from 8.5F to 11F. Alternate bore Alternation, winner of the Peter Pan, Oaklawn Handicap, etc. Tip Tap Tapizar’s half-brother Devine Music (Songandaprayer) is a stakes placed sprinter.
Bashford Manor Stakes replay
Gunnevera (Dialed In - Unbridled Rage , by Unbridled) earned his initial victory in his third start. About 1/16th into the race, the colt had to check off of heels and lost a few lengths. He made a huge 6-wide bid around the far turn and ran down the winner steps from the wire, earning the win by ¾ length over Gulfstream Park’s deep, sandy track. Trainer Antonio Sano is 18% with shippers and Castellano will ride.
Pedigree: The offspring of First Crop Sire Dialed In are surprisingly precocious. The son of Mineshaft captured the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby. Gunnevera’s distaff line isn’t as illustrious as those of his competitors, but this colt has the breeding to win at classic distances. He’s a half brother to a multiple stakes placed runner in Puerto Rico. Gunnevera’s third dam is multiple stakes placed and the Canadian Champion 2YO Filly Van Lear Rose is part of this family.
Gunnevera's maiden victory replay
Mule Racing at Saratoga
Sonic Mule (Distorted Humor - Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy) won his 5 ½ furlong debut at Monmouth Park for Todd Pletcher. He sat behind the early pace and took over in the stretch with an easy 3 ¼ length score.The colt ran with his tail high in the air, a very odd running style, and he was green in the stretch.
Pedigree: Sonic Mule is a first foal. He and Recruiting Ready are closely related because their dams are half sisters. Sonic Mule is by a Mr. Prospector sire line stallion out of an A.P. Indy sire line mare, while Recruiting Ready is by an A.P. Indy sire line stallion out of a Mr. Prospector sire line mare. Both colts share the second through fourth female lines.
Sonic Mule's maiden win
Will Light Up The Tote
Get Lit N Get Wild (Wildcat Heir - Moonlit Star, by Tiger Ridge) Finally got to visit the winner’s circle in his fifth attempt. After four attempts at sprinting, the Kevin Rice trainee stretched out to a mile and won by a widening 3 ½ lengths on the lead at Presque Isle Downs. The gelding is cutting back in distance, shipping and trying dirt for the first time. Trainer Rice has a 0-8 record in graded stakes.
Pedigree: Get Lit N Get Wild has a sprinter/miler pedigree. Very modest pedigree with no blacktype in the first two generations. His third dam won the Florida Oaks at Tampa.
Get Lit N Get Wild's maiden win
Pace setters and pressers have earned the lion’s share of the races this Saratoga meet. One mid-pack runner earned a win while the closers just can’t chase down the speed in time. With only 5 horses in the field and three of them closely matched, we’re looking at another boring chalk fest unless Get Lit N Get Wild does just that. Gunnevera is the longshot that I like, but he’s a large, long-striding horse and may not handle the sharper turns at Saratoga. If they go fast early, he can run late and pass tired horses. There’s a chance of rain, so we could be looking at either a good or sloppy track. All of the colts (and gelding) should handle the surface and Gunnevera placed second in the mud at Gulfstream.
#5 Recruiting Ready (6-5)
#3 TIP TAP TAPIZAR (4-1)
#4 Gunnevera (8-1)