Speightster continues to impress

Profile Picture: James Scully

July 8th, 2015

The Dwyer (G2) wasn’t the biggest race on a busy July 4th weekend nor did it feature the most memorable performance (Lady Eli sets off fireworks), but Speightster proved highly impressive in his stakes debut, remaining unbeaten for Bill Mott with a 2 ½-length decision.

The chestnut colt made his first career start on April 17, winning a Keeneland maiden special weight by seven lengths, and scored by 3 ½ lengths over entry-level allowance foes at Belmont on June 5.

The Dwyer came at the expense of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red.

Speightster was keyed up from the start, closely tracking the pace in second down the backstretch with Jose Lezcano, and readily moved to take command leaving the far turn.

Texas Red offered a menacing rally in midstretch, nearly reaching even terms, but Speightster had more to offer and quickly reasserted control, drawing off to cover a mile in 1:35.13.

His BRIS Speed ratings continued to rise, registering a career-best 104, and Speightster enters the second half of the season as potentially a major player for the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) – races that won’t have American Pharoah.

Mott trains another up-and-coming sophomore, Japan, who jumped straight from a good-looking maiden win to capture his stakes bow, the Easy Goer on the Belmont Stakes undercard. The well-bred Japan could be any kind as well.

After being sidelined earlier this year with a foot abscess, Texas Red gave a fine account following a 153-day layoff, finishing 2 ½ lengths clear of third, and is eligible to show more off the tightener.

A son of sprint champion Speightstown, Speightster will naturally face distance questions heading forward, but he could receive a healthy dose of stamina from a classy female family (dam is by Danzig and is a full sister to champion Dance Smartly).

And Speightstown isn’t a one-dimensional sire; he was also represented by Forward Pass, winner of the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby one race after the Dwyer.

Older horses

Tonalist disappointed many fans while sustaining a second straight setback last Saturday, finishing a head second as the 2-5 Suburban (G2) favorite, and it was easy to jump the gun and question his future effectiveness after he came up a little short.

But Effinex turned in a huge winning performance, and the winner and runner-up both earned a career-best 110 BRIS Speed rating.

Tonalist ran well in defeat and can still contend for champion older horse with a strong showing in the coming months. He’ll seek his first stakes victory outside of Belmont Park at the upcoming Saratoga meet.

The same enthusiasm is difficult to find for Race Day, who returned completely flat from a three-month layoff in Sunday’s Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth Park. His well-beaten sixth at odds-on left me wondering whether he can recapture the outstanding form displayed over the winter/early spring.

During a four-race period, from late December to mid-April, Race Day notched BRIS Speed ratings of 108-103-104-106, winning three times and recording a close third in the Fred Hooper (G3). The gray four-year-old colt was brilliant capturing the April 11 Oaklawn H. (G2) by 3 ¾ lengths.

Race Day will try to turn things around next time. In recent months, he missed significant time on the worktab along with stablemates Palace Malice and Protonico, a couple of other notable older horses in the Pletcher barn that we’re hoping to see return soon.

Speightster photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography