How to bet the 2021 Hopeful Stakes

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

September 5th, 2021

The closing-day feature at Saratoga is the $300,000 Hopeful S. (G1), a seven-furlong test for two-year-olds on the dirt. A total of 11 juveniles will go to post in the historic event on Monday, with a pair of runners that appear to be standouts in my estimation.

The Bill Mott-trained #8 High Oak has been super impressive in both lifetime engagements to date, led by a stylish victory in the Saratoga Special (G2) last time out. By young sire Gormley, the March foal showed major improvement in his second career showing when taking over with ease turning for home en route to a 4 1/4-length tally last time out to earn his initial graded victory.

High Oak shows a pair of solid maintenance drills in the interim, and the Kentucky-bred will be a menacing figure with anything resembling his latest performance. Junior Alvarado will ride and have the colt tracking the pace with intent from the opening bell.

Sanford S. (G3) star #6 Wit has dominated two fields by a combined 14 lengths for conditioner Todd Pletcher. The expensive son of fine young sire Practical Joke aired on debut at Belmont Park prior to overcoming a tardy start to punish his 10 foes by eight widening lengths on this surface in the Sanford.

The dark bay colt will be dead fit following five morning drills in advance of Monday, and if he can overcome being a bit slow out of the gate, then who knows how high the ceiling is for the sensational two-year-old.

In any other year I would give a big chance to fine Delaware graduate #2 Defend, from the Cathal Lynch barn, but he looks third best in this spot. The bargain purchase led throughout in a most commanding score at first asking, and while he didn’t top the deepest field of all time, the way that the son of American Freedom did it suggests that his future is quite bright.

The Florida-bred has posted a trio of bullet morning drills since his tour-de-force debut, and he picks up top rider Luis Saez, as well. Any improvement from the April foal makes him a contender at a fair price.

I think that the aforementioned trio are clearly ahead of their counterparts at this stage of their development, and I will focus on the three in all of my wagers.

Hopeful Wagers

  • $15 exacta box 6-8 ($30)
  • 50-cent trifecta 6,8 with 2,6,8 with all ($18)
  • 50-cent superfecta 6,8 with 2,6,8 with 2,6,8 with all ($16)