Mind Control Posts Upset Victory in Hopeful Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 4th, 2018

Saturday’s $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga was supposed to be a showdown between the impressive Saratoga maiden winners Mucho and Nitrous—or at least, that’s how bettors perceived the race.

But apparently, no one made sure Mind Control had a copy of the script, since the son of Stay Thirsty paid no heed to pre-race predictions and stole the race at odds of 10-1, leading from start to finish to upset his more heralded rivals in determined fashion.

It’s not as though Mind Control had never shown ability. His odds were more the result of an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality—he entered the Hopeful off a decisive maiden victory at Monmouth Park, one start after he finished second behind the future graded stakes winner Call Paul in a maiden race at Delaware Park.

But although Mind Control wasn’t racing in the spotlight of a major racing circuit, his speed figures were competitive, and he demonstrated quite plainly in the Hopeful that he can compete with some of the most promising horses on the East Coast. With John Velazquez in the saddle, Mind Control was among the few horses to get away cleanly in a rather ragged start, so the colt quickly found himself dueling for the lead with Nitrous through an opening quarter-mile in :22.96 seconds. Mucho, also away well, was poised on the outside in third place, just a length off the lead.

Moving down the backstretch and into the far turn, the pace accelerated through a second quarter-mile in :22.72 seconds, and still Mind Control remained narrowly in front. But with Mucho edging closer, and Nitrous still running easily, the majority of bettors were surely expecting Mind Control to give way in the homestretch.

Well, they were in for a surprise! When Velazquez asked Mind Control for his best run, the colt found another gear and sprinted 1 ½ lengths clear of Nitrous, with Mucho briefly falling even farther off the lead. Even still, the outcome remained in doubt as Mucho re-rallied in the final furlong, but Mind Control was too game to catch, digging down to cross the wire in front by three-quarters of a length while stopping the timer in 1:22.99 for seven furlongs.
By winning the season’s first Grade 1 race for two-year-old males, Mind Control has stamped himself as one of the East Coast top contender for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and—by extension—the 2019 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). And although no horse since Affirmed in 1977 has pulled off the Hopeful/Derby double, the Hopeful/Juvenile double has been more manageable, most recently being achieved by Shanghai Bobby in 2012.

Only time will tell if Mind Control can reach those same lofty heights, but in any case the Gregory Sacco-trained runner has the Hopeful on his record, and that’s quite literally half the battle!