Hopeful, Bernard Baruch close out Saratoga’s 2015 season on Labor Day Monday
The $350,000 Hopeful S. (G1) drew eight two-year-olds to go seven furlongs and will feature a showdown between Magna Light (3-1) and Uncle Vinny (lukewarm 5-2 morning-line favorite).
Those two met up in the Sanford S. (G3) last out on July 25, with Magna Light getting the three-quarter length win over his fellow juvenile. However, despite being clear the entire way and avoiding contact with any rivals, the stewards ruled that Magna Light interfered with third-place finisher Percolator by drifting in and out during the stretch run and disqualified him to third behind that one.
The controversial decision elevated Uncle Vinny to the winner’s circle, and Magna Light will attempt to return to that spot on Monday in the Spinaway.
While Magna Light and Uncle Vinny, will be battling to determine who’s best, Bullet Gone Astray may just go ahead and steal the show at 15-1 on the morning line.
The Henry Collazo trainee captured his debut at Gulfstream Park over a sloppy, sealed track in late June and added a nine-length romp in the Mountaineer Juvenile S. to his resume last out on August 1. The bay colt will be facing a class test here, but Collazo doesn’t appear to be worried.
"He's coming here because every time he runs he comes out of the race better than went he went in – bigger, stronger, and anxious to do more," Collazo noted. "We don't know how good he is and this is one way of finding out. And, there's no place I'd rather be than Saratoga."
Another viable longshot in the race is Set the Trappe, who is listed at 8-1 on the morning line. The bay colt dueled before being passed late by another in his debut at the Spa on August 8. The Tony Dutrow trainee earned an 84 BRIS Speed rating for that effort, comparable to the top runners in this one, and will be getting two-to-six pounds.
"We really don't put a great deal into our first-time starters," Dutrow explained. "We want them to go out and experience their first race. But by no means do we have our horses ready to run a brilliant race the first time they run, and he did.
"He was good in the paddock, so good in the post parade and in the gate – he broke alertly, took the heat early, shook it off, opened up and got caught late. So I was very, very impressed with the horse. He came out of the race great and has trained brilliantly since. I couldn't say enough about him and every aspect of him training so well."
Magna Light (inside) and Uncle Vinny (outside) in the Sanford (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
One race before the Hopeful, a much more competitive field of seven will line up in the $250,000 Bernard Baruch H. (G2) going 1 1/16 miles on the Spa green. The contest features the like of Grade 1 winner Constitution as well as Grade 2 victors Ironicus and Vyjack.
Constitution returns to competition off a more than seven-month break and will be making his grass debut in this spot. He’s gone 4-0-1 from six starts thus far in his short career, including a win in the Donn H. (G1) on February 7 to open his four-year-old campaign, but this race is just to get him ready for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) on October 3 at Belmont Park, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
"It's kind of an audible call with Constitution," Pletcher said. "We initially planned to run in an allowance race that didn't fill. We're trying to look for a race to prepare him for the Jockey Club (Gold Cup) and we felt like this would be a little bit easier on him than the Woodward ([G1] on Saturday).
"It's a bit of an experiment trying him on the grass, but he's a Tapit and out of a Distorted Humor mare so pedigree wise it suggests he could handle it and hopefully he does."
Ironicus has proven his ability on the green, taking the Dixie S. (G2) at Pimlico in his stakes bow two back and just missing by a neck when rallying six wide around the turn in the one-mile Fourstardave H. (G2) last out.
Vyjack was scheduled to be in the Fourstardave as well, but came down with a fever that forced his connections to scratch. Trainer Bill Mott reported the bay gelding was doing well now as he prepares to make just his third start on the turf after placing in both the Poker S. (G3) and Forbidden Apple S. in his past two.
The Bernard Baruch also features Under Control and Charming Kitten in a rematch after the pair finished one-two, respectively, in the Lure S. over course and distance on August 8. They each were making just their second starts of the season in that contest and are eligible to keep improving here.
Ironicus (outside) just missed to Grand Arch in the Fourstardave (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)