The 2-year-olds are in full bloom at the Saratoga, Ellis Park, and Del Mar meets. Some of these juveniles might head to the Breeders’ Cup in November, and perhaps a few will make it to next year’s classic events.
Let’s take a look at July’s leaders and up-and-coming stars.
Wit demolished a full field by eight lengths in the Sanford Stakes (G3) and earned a 97 Brisnet speed figure for the effort. The Todd Pletcher trainee graduated in June by six lengths. Wit has earned $132,000 in two starts. He is nominated to the Hopeful Stakes (G1) on Sept. 6.
Pedigree: A $575,000 Keeneland September yearling, Wit (Practical Joke - Numero d'Oro, by Medaglia d'Oro) has sprinter/miler breeding.
First-crop sire Practical Joke, a son of Into Mischief, is off to a good start at stud, with four winners from 10 starters.
Wit’s half-brother Barkley is a multiple stakes winner at Emerald Downs, including the Longacres Mile (G3). Their second dam Numero Uno is a restricted winner and multiple graded-placed miler. Wit is bred on the same Into Mischief/ Medaglia d'Oro cross as the multiple stakes-winning sprinter Into Mystic, who was last seen winning the Unbridled Sidney Stakes at Churchill in April.
Big City Lights is the fastest 2-year-old colt in California. He graduated at first asking at Santa Anita in early May by 12 1/2 lengths, getting 4 1/2 furlongs in :51.63, less than a second off the track record. The Luis Mendez trainee followed up on June 20 with a 7 1/4-length score in the Fasig-Tipton Futurity and earned a 100 Beyer speed figure, the highest rating in the 2-year-old division. Big City Lights has earned $96,000 in two starts, and he is nominated for Saturday’s Best Pal (G2).
Pedigree: A $22,000 as a Fasig-Tipton fall yearling, Big City Lights (Mr. Big - Champagne Exchange, by Exchange Rate) has the pedigree to handle 1 1/16 miles. However, whether he’ll carry his precocious speed that far is anyone’s guess.
Mr. Big’s offspring have no distance problems. Big City Lights’ half-sister Exchange Vows was third in last year’s Sorrento (G2). Their dam was unplaced in her only start, and she’s a half to Hard Way Ten, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Emerald Distaff, and to Super Dixie, who won the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes at Emerald Downs as a 2-year-old. Big City Lights’ second dam won a trio of stakes from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.
Double Thunder chased an opening quarter of 21.00 and a half in 45.30 in the Bashford Manor (G3). He cut the corner, weaved through traffic and once clear, opened up on his exhausted rivals by 4 3/4 lengths. Double Thunder received a 79 Brisnet speed figure for his efforts. The Pletcher trainee is perfect in two starts with earnings of $116,850. Double Thunder is nominated for the Saratoga Special (G2) on Aug. 14.
Pedigree: A $60,000 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling, Double Thunder (Super Saver - Rattataptap, by Tapit) should handle 1 1/16 miles and could possibly handle classic distances with maturity.
Super Saver developed into a useful stud, getting 28 black-type winners and two champions from eight crops, including 2015 Champion Sprinter Runhappy and multiple Grade 1 sensation Letruska.
Double Thunder is the first foal out of Grade 3-placed miler Rattataptap. His dam's full sister My Mis Tapit is a Grade 2-placed sprinter, and full brother I'll Wrap it Up is a Grade 3-placed turf miler. Second dam Sindy With An S was a Grade 3 winning sprinter.
Murray (Street Sense - Now Now, by Tiznow) graduated at first asking at Del Mar by a powerful 10 3/4 lengths, getting 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.37. His 92 Bris speed figure is one of the highest earned this year by a 2-year-old. Bob Baffert may point Murray to the Del Mar Futurity (G1) on Sept. 6.
Pedigree: A $300,000 Keeneland yearling, Murray (Street Sense - Now Now, by Tiznow) has the pedigree and conformation to handle classic distances. Only one of Murray’s two half-siblings have won, and their dam was unplaced in both starts. The extended family includes multiple graded sprinter/miler Listen Here, and Grade 1 winners La Coronel and Listening. Murray is bred on the same Street Sense/Tiznow cross as the English listed winning turf miler Bye Bye Hong Kong.
Recent turf winner Limited Liability had Saratoga buzzing over his swift turn of foot in a 1 1/16-mile turf race on Saturday. The Shug McGaughey trainee made a sweeping 5-wide move around the far turn and won by 2 3/4 lengths under a hand ride by Jose Ortiz. Perhaps we’ll see Limited Liability in the With Anticipation Stakes (G3) on Sept. 1.
Pedigree: The pretty gray Limited Liability (Kitten's Joy - Hold Harmless, by Blame) should handle classic distances. He is a homebred campaigned by Stuart S. Janney.
Limited Liability is the second foal out of a full sister to Onus, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Commonwealth Oaks (G3) at Laurel in 2015. The class skips to Limited Liability’s third dam, stakes winner, and multiple blacktype producer Meghan’s Joy. She bore six stakes winners, five of them graded, including second-crop sire Ironicus, Brooklyn Invitational (G2) winner Norumbega, and multiple graded winner On Leave.
Two standout fillies may clash in the Spinaway Stakes (G1) on Sept. 5.
Pretty Birdie beat a well-bred field of fillies by two lengths in the six-furlong Schuyerville (G3). The Norm Casse trainee earned a 90 Bris speed figure. Undefeated in two starts, the pretty gray filly has earnings of $139,988.
Pedigree: Pretty Birdie (Bird Song - Bird Sense, by Street Sense) has the pedigree and conformation to handle 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles and might stretch out with maturity.
Pretty Birdie is a product of the famed Whitney Stables breeding program. She is the first runner for her first-crop sire, who was sent to Saudi Arabia after his first year at stud in the U.S.
Pretty Birdie’s dam was in the money 11 of 12 starts. She’s a half-sister to Golden Rod (G2) runner-up Bird Maker and stakes-placed sprinter Cheechako. That one bore this year’s Jazil Stakes runner-up Tenderfoot.
Pretty Birdie has Rasmussen Factor inbreeding to Whitney foundation mare Dear Birdie, through her sire’s dam, Kentucky Oaks heroine Birdtown, and Birdtown’s half-sister Dearest Gulch. Dearest Gulch is Pretty Birdie’s third dam.
Echo Zulu graduated at first asking at Saratoga, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden contest by 5 1/2-lengths on July 15. The Steve Asmussen trainee earned a 96 Bris speed figure for her efforts.
Pedigree: A $300,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling, Echo Zulu (Gun Runner - Letgomyecho, by Menifee) should handle 1 1/16 miles.
It isn’t a surprise that the later-developing Horse of the Year Gun Runner is an excellent sire; but it is surprising that his offspring are precocious sprinters since many have classic conformation.
Grade 2-winning sprinter Letgomyecho is a terrific producer. Her offspring include last year's H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) winner Echo Town, multiple Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo, plus a pair of precocious graded placed runners, Unbridled Outlaw, and Dragic. In addition, Echo Zulu's half-sisters bore this year's Triple Bend (G1) runner-up Shooters Shoot and Deputy's Echo, who is multiple listed-placed between 5 1/2-furlongs and 1 1/8-miles.