Race of the Week 2017

Captain Webb One to Beat in With Anticipation

Captain Webb breaks maiden at Saratoga.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
In 2004, English Channel used Saratoga Race Course as his launching pad, breaking his maiden at first asking as a juvenile before going on to win the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Turf and being named that year’s Champion Male Turf Horse. This year, Captain Webb and Optimizer, both sons of English Channel, will look to follow in their father’s footsteps and become stakes winners when they compete in Thursday’s Grade 2, $150,000 With Anticipation for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on Saratoga’s Mellon turf course.


The With Anticipation is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winner, if nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by October 24, guaranteed a berth in the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.


Captain Webb and Optimizer bring similar credentials to the With Anticipation; both colts emulated their sire by posting debut victories on the turf at Saratoga.


Over the With Anticipation’s course and distance on July 30, Captain Webb stalked a slow pace and kicked away in the stretch to a 2 ½-length triumph. The runner-up in that race, Daddy Nose Best, returned to win by a half-length on Saturday.


“We were pleased the horse who ran second came back and won this weekend,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Captain Webb for James Scatuorchio, the same connections behind English Channel. “We’ve liked the way he’s trained all summer, and his first start was what we were hoping it’d be. We’re optimistic.”


Captain Webb, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will be ridden by John Velazquez from the rail.


“From post one, we should be able to secure some sort of position going into the first turn,” said Pletcher. “Ideally, he’d be laying in mid-division.”


One week after Captain Webb’s debut win, Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer made a six-wide rally from seventh to get up by a neck in another 1 1/16-mile race under a hand ride by Robby Albarado.


“He has the pedigree to be there,” said Will VanMeter, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “He’s been working well, so we’re pretty confident he’s going to run well. Wayne’s philosophy, especially with the 2-year-olds, is that we’ll run against one-other-thans whether it’s a stakes or it’s an allowance race. Obviously, the quality of the competition is going to be a lot stiffer, but you don’t really know who you are going up against. They all have the same conditions. If he has a debut maiden winner, he likes to wheel them back in a stakes.”


Albarado has the return assignment aboard Optimizer, who drew the outside post in the field of 10 and was installed at 8-1 on the morning line.


“He’s a horse who doesn’t have a lot of early speed, so hopefully he’ll be able to get himself in a good position by the time they enter the first turn,” said VanMeter.


The 7-2 second choice on the morning line is Dullahan, who with three starts is the most experienced runner in the field. After finishing a non-threatening third and fifth in a pair of dirt sprints at Churchill Downs, the son of Even the Score was second in a maiden race on the turf August 13 at Saratoga.


Trained by Dale Romans for owner Donegal Racing, Dullahan will leave from post 4 with Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux in the irons.


Team Valor International’s State of Play stretches out in distance off a 2 ½-length score in a 5 ½-furlong turf sprint on July 27 at the Spa. As in his debut, he’ll ship in from trainer Graham Motion’s base in Fair Hill, Md.


Ramon Dominguez will ride State of Play, 5-1 on the morning line, from post 6.


Splendiferous, who took a $75,000 maiden claimer on turf August 11 by 1 ¼ lengths in his lone previous start, will be making his first start for trainer Steve Margolis and owner Jake Ballis in the With Anticipation. He was previously trained by Mark Casse, who owned the colt in partnership with Tina Casse and Harvey A. Swartz.


Shaun Bridgmohan retains the mount aboard Splendiferous, who will leave from post 5 at 6-1 on the morning line.


The With Anticipation field also includes maiden winners Fox Rules and Sportswriter and maidens Knock Rock and Two Months Rent. Clip the Coupons was entered for the main track only.


The field for the Grade 2, $150,000 With Anticipation:








Captain Webb (KY)

J R Velazquez


T A Pletcher



Knock Rock (KY)

R Maragh


S M Schwartz



Fox Rules (NY)

J A Grabowski


M A Ferraro



Dullahan (KY)

K J Desormeaux


D L Romans



Splendiferous (KY)

S Bridgmohan


S Margolis



State of Play (KY)

R A Dominguez


H G Motion



Two Months Rent (KY)

J Castellano


J J Toner



Sportswriter (NY)

R Curatolo


C F Martin



Optimizer (KY)

R Albarado


D W Lukas



Clip the Coupons (FL) (MTO)

J Castellano


C C Brown



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