Rematch in the Hopeful Stakes

September 07, 2015 02:08pm
Uncle Vinny Sanford 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA Photo

The seven furlong Hopeful Stakes was inaugurated in 1903. In 1973, the American Graded Stakes Committee bestowed Grade 1 status on the race. Traditionally, the Hopeful was the first Grade 1 event held for juveniles in the country. Winners of the prestigious race include the first fillies to win the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby, Tanya and Regret, the legendary Man O'War, plus Triple Crown Champs Whirlaway, Secretariat, and Affirmed. After Affirmed's victory, the last two horses to capture the Hopeful Stakes and a Triple Crown race were Preakness winner Summer Squall in 1989 and Preakness/Belmont hero Afleet Alex in 2004. Perhaps it is a sign of modern American breeding trends that the majority of the Hopeful Stakes winners since 2000 have continued their careers as sprinters or middle distance runners. 


Still, the Hopeful Stakes can be a good indicator of Breeders’ Cup strength. In 2012, Shanghai Bobby completed the Hopeful/Juvenile double to capture the Eclipse Award as outstanding Two-Year-Old Colt. 2013’s Hopeful champ Strong Mandate finished third in the Breeders’ Cup. Last year’s winner Competitive Edge missed the Breeders’ Cup due to a hairline fracture, but returned to win the Pat Day Mile (G-2) on Kentucky Derby day. Eight colts will contest this year's.  Ashley Tamulonis from Coast To Coast and I preview the field



MAGNA LIGHT (Magna Graduate - Kimberlite, by Mineshaft) is technically the winner of the Sanford Stakes, but was placed third due to disqualification.  Otherwise, the colt is undefeated in both of his starts.  Magna Light is a full brother to multiple stakes placed sprinter, Unbridled Graduate. Magna Light has a classy pedigree.  He carries Rasmussen Factor (to a superior mare) to the blue hen LASSIE DEAR.  She shows up three times in his pedigree.  Despite the lofty ancestors, this particular branch of the distaff line has little blacktype, although the second dam Unbridled Lassie is Grade 1 stakes placed.  The #1 post is winning at 16%.  Magna Light has speed on the rail. 


Magna Light—Was obviously the best colt in the Sanford field. Unfortunately he jumped away from Jose Ortiz’s left-handed whip, and then the duo made the mistake of cutting back to the inside. Had they just stayed out in the center of the track, Magna Light likely would not have been DQed. Bearing that in mind, Magna Light will go to the lead again here and once more play catch me if you can. With only one other colt likely to go out for the lead, I see this being Magna Light’s race to lose.

SALLISAW (Exchange Rate - Smokey Diplomacy, by Dynaformer) was the favorite in his debut. He ran greenly, chasing the pace setters throughout. In deep stretch, it didn’t look as if he’d get there, but Junior Alvarado whaled on the colt and Sallisaw picked up the pace to pass the dueling pace setters by ¾ length.  Sallisaw has a modest pedigree. He’s a half brother to the multiple stakes winning sprinter CLEAR THE RUNWAY, a winner of listed/restricted races at minor tracks. Their dam is a stakes placed turf miler.  Sallisaw has a strong turf pedigree and that surface is always an option if he proves to be middling over the dirt.  Sallisaw recorded a good second to last four furlong breeze in company with Cumberland River, who is a half brother to Champion Ashado. I wasn’t impressed with Sallisaw’s debut.


Sallisaw—Based on trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s stats, Sallisaw could be danger to upset this field. McLaughlin is shooting 26% on this distance and surface, 24% with 2-year olds, 23% winner of last start, 16% stakes and 18% with jockey Junior Alvarado. Sallisaw has a maiden win to his credit, a race in which he sat just off the pace before taking over in the stretch.


STICKSSTATELYDUDE (First Dude - Placerita, by Gilded Time) is ping-ponging between barns.  He was second in his Churchill debut for Greg Burchell.  The son of First Dude got his maiden win under the eye of Kiaran McLaughlin on August first and is now back in Burchell’s barn. Sticksstatelydude’s maiden victory showed this colt’s athleticism and determination.  He was at the back of a tightly bunched group early on, down on the rail. Hitting the ½ mile pole Rosario moved the colt outside to go about four wide on the turn.  Rosario got creative down the stretch, ducking and weaving to find a seam and Sticksstatelydude responded gamely.  Once daylight opened up, the colt found another gear and pulled away late for a two length victory. The second place finisher. Ready’s Dancer, came back to win.  Sticksstatelydude is a half brother to SATURDAY NITE RIDE, a multiple stakes winning sprinter/miler at Northlands Park. Their dam is a half sister to the stakes winner SINGING HEART.  That one is the grand-dam of King's Bishop stakes hero THE BIG BEAST Sticksstatelydude impressed me with his moves last time out.  If he comes close to that effort with a better trip, he could be a serious contender.


Sticksstatelydude—Has a win at Saratoga off a 2nd in his debut at Churchill Downs. He has a series of nice works, but trainer Greg Burchell is leaping into deep waters against this field with his First Dude colt. Look elsewhere for value and a winner.


SET THE TRAPPE (Trappe Shot - Broad Sound, by Broad Brush)    is a son of freshman sire Trappe Shot. Set The Trappe is a half brother to Brimstone Island, a stakes placed runner at Pimlico, and to restricted stakes placed runner In Broad Daylight. Their dam Broad Sound hit the board in 7 of 15 starts. She’s a half to the stakes winning sprinter HAIR SPRAY and to LEGAL CONTROL, a stakes winning turf miler. Set The Trappe’s second dam MISS LEGALITY was a very precocious youngster, winning two stakes and placing in three others as a two year old and winning the Black-Eyed Susan at three. Set The Trappe flashed early speed in his debut and had a two length lead in the stretch, but he couldn’t hold off Economic Model, who passed him to win by 2 ¼ lengths.  Set The Trappe barely held on for second by a head.  He’ll have to contend with other early speed in here unless Set The Trappe shows another dimension.  Maybe he can hang on for a minor award.


Set the Trappe—Was scratched out of a maiden special weight on Saturday in favor of the Hopeful despite still being a maiden. Sire Trappe Shot finished 5th in his debut after stumbling out of the gate and went on to be a graded stakes winner. Set the Trappe could get up for some minor money here, but I don’t see him winning.


TOM'S READY (More Than Ready - Goodbye Stranger, by Broad Brush) has the pedigree of a milled distance/classic horse. His sire gets winners at all distances and Tom’s Ready carries the bloodlines of Broad Brush (Intermediate/Classic chef-de-race), Deputy Minister and Sham on his distaff side. Tom’s Ready has a modest pedigree.  His full brother Consulado is a stakes placed sprinter and their dam is a half sister to two listed winners.  Tom’s Ready found 5 ½ furlongs too short in his debut. Running in the same race as Sallisaw, Tom’s Ready had no early speed and was last for much of the race. Running down the stretch, the colt had his head cocked sideways in an effort to see where he was going.  Despite his name, Tom didn’t appear ready.  Although Tom’s Ready had a good burst late near the wire, which earned him the highest late pace speed figure in the field. The blinkers didn’t seem to help and the colt was pretty green.  He’s talented, but he’ll need to bring his “A” game to win against some of these.


Tom’s Ready—If you’re a New England Patriots fan, Tom’s Ready will be the hunch bet for you. Now that Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension has been nullified, you can bet that the famed quarterback in “More Than Ready” to show that he’s the best QB in the league, with or without deflated footballs. Now, Tom’s Ready ran a pretty even debut race, checking in 4th, beaten by just 1 ½ lengths. There’s definitely room for improvement, and those 10-1 morning line odds could be quite lucrative.


RALIS (Square Eddie - Silar Rules, by Ten Most Wanted) ships in from California for Doug O’Neil. The trainer has the favorite Nyquist and longshot Archaeo entered in the Del Mar Futurity.  After beating state-bred maidens at Santa Anita, Ralis chased his stablemate MRAZEK in the Summer Juvenile Championship.  Ralis made a good effort over a very speed favoring Del Mar track in the Graduation Stakes, but was still no threat to his stablemate.  Ralis also has a good/bad race cycle going.  Ralis’ second dam is a G-3 winning sprinter and the most accomplished runner in three generations.   This field is the toughest that he’s faced and I don’t see him stepping up unless there’s an insane speed duel on the front end.


Ralis—The most experienced in the field, Ralis has just 1 win from 4 starts. Already an experience traveler, Ralis has run on both the East and West Coast. He gets 4-1 billing on the morning line thanks to a 2nd place finish in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, but that was a state-bred spot, and he’ll face much tougher here. Pass.


UNCLE VINNY   (Uncle Mo - Arealhotlover, by Untuttable) earned a victory in the Sanford Stakes via DQ.  The colt raced from off of the pace and made a game run through the stretch, closing in on Magna Light. Uncle Vinny is the first blacktype winner for his freshman sire Uncle Mo, who was the 2010 Champion Two Year Old Colt.   The Pletcher trainee is a half brother to the stakes placed filly Legal Laura and their dam is a stakes winning sprinter.   Uncle Vinny races for the connections of another two year old champ, Shanghai Bobby.  This colt has Two Year Old Champ aspirations, but he’ll have to beat Magna Light fair and square this time.


Uncle Vinny—On the flip side of the Sanford DQ, Uncle Vinny got put up into 1st, but I doubt he was getting by Magna Light, drifting or no drifting on that rival’s part. Throw out his Tremont effort where he was bumped at the start, and you see a game little Unclo Mo colt. How good he can be has yet to be seen, but I need to see him beat Magna Light fair and square before I concur with the morning line odds that have him as the favorite over his disqualified rival.


BULLET GONE ASTRAY  (Gone Astray - Permanent Makeup, by Red Bullet) has won both of his starts, including the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes, by a combined 10 ½ lengths.  He’s stabled at Gulfstream Park and ships in to face the toughest group of his career.  Bullet Gone Astray is a son of freshman sire Gone Astray.  His dam is a minor stakes placed runner and she’s a half sister to three graded stakes placed runners, so there’s some quality in his distaff family.  Bullet Gone Astray draws the far outside post, but that shouldn’t bother the colt since he won both of his starts after sitting off of the pace.  His speed figures and final times indicate that Bullet Gone Astray hasn’t run particularly fast, but he was so far ahead in his races, there was no need for the colt to extend himself.  He’ll get a class test and could be a good bet for the exotics.


Bullet Gone Astray—Enters this spot off a 9 length victory in a listed stake at Mountaineer last month. Like Ralis, Bullet Gone Astray will face much tougher here, and I wouldn’t touch him at less than his 15-1 morning line odds. Pass.



The last five Hopeful Stakes heroes stalked from third or fourth place in the early stages and made their move at the ½ mile pole. Five of the eight entrants have shown the capability to rate in this fashion.



#7 UNCLE VINNY (5-2)


#1 MAGNA LIGHT (3-1)




#7 UNCLE VINNY (5-2)


#1 MAGNA LIGHT (3-1)


#5 TOM'S READY (10-1)

#5 TOM'S READY (10-1)

#2 SALLISAW (5-1)




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