The 2-year-old racing action continues across the country this week with a bevy of competitive maiden races at Del Mar, Ellis Park, and Saratoga.
Two maiden sprints slated for Saturday have drawn particularly deep fields, filled to the brim with well-bred youngsters. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be in action at Del Mar with his first 2-year-old starter of 2020, while four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown has a promising prospect entered at Saratoga.
Let’s dig through the entries and add eight notable names to our watch lists.
Saturday, Aug. 1
Saratoga Race 1: Maiden Special Weight (6 furlongs, 1:10 p.m. ET)
#2 Reinvestment Risk
Hailing from the first crop of foals sired by Upstart, who placed six times against Grade 1 company, Reinvestment Risk has put together a lengthy and impressive work tab for Saratoga’s reigning champion trainer Chad Brown. Produced by the Candy Ride mare Ridingwiththedevil, Reinvestment Risk clocked a bullet half-mile from the Monmouth starting gate in :47 4/5 on July 7, and last Sunday he sped five furlongs from the Saratoga gate in a swift :59 4/5. Hot jockey Irad Ortiz has been assigned the mount, so you can bet this $280,000 auction purchase will attract plenty of attention on debut.
This cleverly named son of Speightstown was produced by the Medaglia d’Oro mare Tokyo Time, giving Olympiad a pedigree with plenty of potential for stretching out in distance down the road. But considering Speightstown was a champion sprinter who sires 16 percent debut winners, there’s also a chance Olympiad will show life on debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. While his work tab is a bit light compared to Reinvestment Risk, Olympiad has posted a pair of bullet works at Saratoga and could outrun expectations in his first start, with even better to come in the future.
#5 Regular Guy
It will be difficult to find a better bred 2-year-old in action this week than Regular Guy. A son of Preakness winner and champion 3-year-old Bernardini, Regular Guy was produced by the Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams, previously the dam of Blue Grass (G1) winner Carpe Diem, Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) victor Farrell, Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner J. B.’s Thunder, and Los Alamitos Derby (G2) runner-up Semper Fortis. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Regular Guy has shown plenty of speed during morning training, most recently clocking a bullet half-mile from the Saratoga starting gate in 1:00 2/5. If he’s inherited half the talent of his graded-stakes-winning half-siblings, Regular Guy can factor on debut with jockey Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle.
Del Mar Race 3: Maiden Special Weight (5 furlongs on dirt, 6:00 p.m. ET)
Richard Mandella appears to have a promising prospect on his hands in Petruchio, a son of 2019 leading sire Into Mischief out of the Distorted Humor mare Satirical. Petruchio is bred to be a speedy sprinter/miler and has certainly shown tactical foot during morning training, posting a steady series of reasonably quick workouts dating back to early May. Mandella strikes at just an 11 percent rate with first-time starters, well below his overall 21 percent win rate this year, so Petruchio probably won’t be primed for a peak effort in his first start under colors. But with hot jockey Flavien Prat in the saddle, Petruchio is one to watch for the future.
As a son of Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor, Epidemic hails from a productive family. His dam already has foaled two stakes winners from five starters, including millionaire Stanford, who counted a triumph in the Charles Town Classic (G2) as his signature victory. Trainer Ryan Hanson might not be a household name, but he wins at a solid 19 percent rate overall and has sent out Epidemic to conduct a quick series of workouts at Del Mar, including a bullet five furlongs from the starting gate in :59 4/5. This is a deep field, but Epidemic — who sold for $165,000 in March — has the potential to be in the mix.
Although Bob Baffert trains many high-priced young horses, his first 2-year-old starter of 2020 is Freedom Fighter, who sold for just $120,000 as a yearling despite boasting a quality pedigree. A son of CashCall Futurity (G1) winner Violence, who sires 20 percent debut winners, Freedom Fighter was produced by the City Zip mare Canadian Ballet, a classy sprinter who competed in two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Considering Violence and Canadian Ballet both won stakes races as juveniles, it’s safe to say Freedom Fighter is bred to be a speedy and early maturing sort. Baffert wins at a 38 percent rate with horses debuting in maiden special weights, and Freedom Fighter has posted an eye-catching serious of workouts, culminating with a bullet half-mile in :47 flat from the Del Mar starting gate. With Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle, Freedom Fighter appears poised to deliver a powerful performance on debut.
#6 El Joy
Although El Joy has the pedigree of a top-class colt, it’s unlikely this $30,000 auction purchase will show his best sprinting five furlongs on dirt. A son of turf champion Kitten’s Joy out of the Bluegrass Cat mare Blue Grass Music, El Joy is a full brother to Henley’s Joy, winner of the 2019 Belmont Derby (G1) running 1 1/4 miles on grass. No matter how El Joy fares on Saturday, this Eoin Harty trainee figures to improve while stretching out on turf in the future.
Sold for $750,000 as a 2-year-old in training, Vittorio is a son of Ghostzapper out of a Smart Strike mare, giving him an elite pedigree geared toward stamina and late maturity. As a result, he seems unlikely to win on debut for trainer Simon Callaghan, who has gone just 3 for 40 (8 percent) with juvenile first-time starters at Del Mar over the last five years. But Vittorio has shown speed in the mornings, most notably breezing a half-mile in :47 4/5, and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has accepted the mount. If Vittorio shows promise on Saturday, look for him to come back with an improved run later in the meet — since 2015, Callaghan has gone 15-for-74 (20 percent) with race-experienced 2-year-olds at Del Mar.