No stranger to star sprinters, trainer Steve Asmussen now has another one in his barn.
Yaupon handled a muddy Saratoga course Saturday to win the Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes. The Uncle Mo colt, who didn’t debut until June, improved to 3-for-3 when taking the six-furlong stakes against five other 3-year-olds.
Owners Corinne and William Heiligbrodt campaigned another Asmussen standout in Mitole, the Eclipse Award 2019 Champion Male Sprinter. The trainer did not hesitate to bring up that retired champion’s name after Yaupon’s Amsterdam win.
“When Mr. and Mrs. Heiligbrodt purchased him, we were trying to replace Mitole,” Asmussen told Fox’s Saratoga Live. “He has not disappointed to this point.”
Yaupon entered the Amsterdam off wins June 20 at Churchill Downs in his debut and July 18 in a Saratoga allowance. He garnered 7-5 favoritism Saturday, with two-time Grade 1 winner Basin going off the second choice at 2-1.
Under jockey Joel Rosario, Yaupon broke sharply and set fractions of :21.93 and :44.68. Long Weekend and Wondrwherecraigis tried to stay up and challenge the leader while Basin sat fourth.
Turning for home, Basin moved into second and looked ready to mount a challenge. But he was never able to threaten Yaupon, who powered on to a two-length victory.
Yaupon covered the six furlongs over a sealed, muddy Saratoga surface in 1:08.50 and returned $4.80. Basin, a former Asmussen trainee making his first start for Todd Pletcher, ran second ahead of Premier Star in third.
“Yaupon’s got a tremendous amount of talent,” Asmussen said. “It was extremely important for him to be a graded stakes winner here at Saratoga. He handled the conditions wonderfully. There was a very talented field assembled and he showed his ability.”
Yaupon became the second Asmussen-trained colt to impressively win a six-furlong graded stakes during the 2020 Saratoga meet. Stablemate Volatile beat three Grade 1 winners over the same surface and distance July 25 in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1).
Asmussen won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, also at six furlongs, with Mitole. Yaupon on Saturday established himself as one of two contenders to help the trainer attempt to repeat in 2020.