Repole Stables’ Outplay made his case for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) on August 26 when easily wiring the $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga on Friday.
The Todd Pletcher trainee grabbed control out of the gate and never looked back en route to a 5 3/4-length triumph in the 1 1/8-mile affair. Jockey John Velazquez guided the bay son of Bernardini through splits of :24.06, :48.71, 1:13.29 and 1:37.81 before the duo stopped the clock in 1:50.59 over the fast main track.
Outplay was making his seventh start, but still showed signs of greenness, ducking in from a tap of the whip. It wasn’t enough to get him beat, though, and the 2-1 second choice returned $6.10 for the win.
Small Bear followed in second, three parts of a length up on Perfect Partner. You’re to Blame, the 6-5 favorite, just missed third by a neck but was 10 1/4 lengths ahead of fifth-placer Everybodyluvsrudy. Thirst for Victory came next while Hemsworth was eased under the wire to complete the field.
Outplay took four tries to break his maiden, but did so in spectacular fashion going gate-to-wire by 8 1/2 lengths on April 8 at Aqueduct in an off-the-turf contest. The bay sophomore put together the same type of run to take an allowance/optional claimer at Parx Racing a month later, but was never in front next out in the Easy Goer Stakes and finished third.
Now 7-3-2-1 in his career, Outplay has banked $163,000 in lifetime earnings. Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., he is out of the stakes-placed Storm Cat mare Miss Kate, making him a half-brother to stakes scorers Katerbug and Raconteur.
Outplay’s second dam is the Sharpen Up mare Dream Deal, who captured the 1989 Monmouth Oaks (G1) and went on to produce multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Clear Mandate. His third dam is Grade 1 queen Likely Exchange, who foaled 1985 Belmont Stakes (G1) conqueror and $4 million earner Crème Fraiche.
CURLIN STAKES QUOTES
Todd Pletcher, trainer Outplay, winner
“I don’t know that we expected a dominant performance. We felt like the horse was training very well and we felt like on paper we had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else’s strategy is but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that. He was able to get to the first turn in good order and I thought he ran very well.
“He got a little bit green down the lane when he was by himself. He went back to his inside lead and Johnny (Velazquez) had to correct him but overall I thought it was a very impressive performance. His pedigree suggests he’s going to get better with more distance and that seemed to be the case today.”
Will Outplay face graded rivals next out, maybe even the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) on August 26?
“I don’t know for sure. I don’t want to commit to the Travers yet. He did have a huge win at Parx earlier in the year; the ($1 million) Pennsylvania Derby ([G1] at Parx Racing on September 23) could make some sense, but I’ll talk to Mr. (Mike) Repole about it. I’m sure he’d be excited to run in the Travers. We’ll see how things go tomorrow and how the Travers shapes up and go from there.”
John Velazquez, jockey Outplay, winner
“We knew there wasn’t much pace in the race other than Chad (Brown’s) horse (You’re to Blame), so coming in Todd (Pletcher) and I talked and felt that we’d run to the first turn and see where we are and it all worked out from there. When he won at Belmont, I hit him right-handed and he kind of ducked away from the whip. He did it again today, I don’t know why. He didn’t do it in his last race, but he didn’t win so I didn’t have to ride him so hard.”