December 11, 2023

Bright Future Classic-bound after edging Proxy in Jockey Club Gold Cup; Alvis Starr dominates Prioress

Bright Future (inside) nosed out Proxy in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga (Photo by Coglianese Photography/Credit Chelsea Durand)

Bright Future stepped up with a game win in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga, withstanding Proxy by a nose in the head-bobbing finish. Owned by Mike Repole and Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable, Bright Future earned an expenses-paid berth to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, and Javier Castellano was up for Todd Pletcher.

The four-year-old son of Curlin notched his first stakes win as well, leaving the starting gate as 3.75-1 second choice among eight runners in his second stakes attempt. Bright Future was exiting a 4 3/4-length win in a 1 1/8-mile allowance earlier in the meet, his first two-turn win.

“It was a good spot to try a Grade 1 and he delivered a big performance,” Pletcher said. “In order to go to the next one (Classic), he’s going to need to make another move forward. It appears to be pretty wide open, the older horse division.” 

Bright Future has now captured three of five starts this year, improving his overall record to 7-4-0-2. The chestnut colt was unplaced when making his stakes debut in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn (G2) on the Belmont S. (G1) undercard.

“He’s a horse that we’ve always thought a lot of,” Pletcher said. “I’ve got to give the Violas and the Repoles a lot of credit because we’ve had to kind of tap on the brakes a few times along the way and they gave him time to develop. We probably got a little ambitious when we tried the Brooklyn, maybe didn’t have quite the foundation to be ready to go a mile and a half at that stage. We regrouped with the allowance race here and I thought it was a powerful performance, so from that time on we’ve been pointing for this and the horse has trained exceptionally well. Coming into it, we were optimistic he was ready to make a move forward.”

Bright Future broke alertly and tracked in second to Warrior Johny, who sped forward to show the way on a short lead through opening splits in :48.86 and 1:14.10 in the 1 1/4-mile race. Castellano asked his mount nearing the completion of the far turn, and Bright Future responded with a sharp turn of foot, driving to a clear lead in upper stretch.

Proxy, who saved ground while stalking behind the top two in the early stages, swung out for the stretch drive and offered a big late run to threaten, but just missed in the exciting finish.

“He ran a big race,” said Joel Rosario, rider of 4.10-1 third choice Proxy. “It was a very good performance for him…I thought for a second we got it done.”

Pletcher noted the terrific 2023 season for Castellano, who along with winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Belmont was exiting his record seventh win in the Travers (G1) last weekend.

“Javier has had a phenomenal year,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “He’s making all the right decisions and it is great to see him back in top form after taking some time off for an injury. He’s riding as good as ever.”

Tyson finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. Next came Clapton, Duke of Love, 1.65-1 favorite Rattle N Roll, Warrior Johny, and Unbridled Bomber.

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Bright Future is the first stakes winner from the stakes-winning Bellamy Road mare Sophia’s Song. He was purchased for $350,000 as a yearling at the 2020 Keeneland September sale.

“He’s a Curlin,” Repole said. “I had a horse by Curlin named Vino Rosso that couldn’t put it together at three (and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named champion older male at age four), but now (Bright Future) has put it together at four. I named the horse Bright Future for a reason. I knew he was going to be a later three-year-old, four-year-old horse and so far his name is fitting right now.”

Prioress (G2)

Alva Starr drew off entering the stretch of the $242,500 Prioress (G2), rolling home to an 8 3/4-length decision in the six-furlong test for three-year-old fillies. Following a romping score in her stakes debut, the Dash Beauty at Delaware Park, the daughter of Lord Nelson continued her progression in the female sprint ranks with an impressive win in her first graded attempt.

Bred by trainer Brent Brinkman and owner Dale Ladner, Alva Star rattled off an opening quarter-mile in :21.73 on a short lead, began to edge away rounding the far turn, reaching the half-mile mark in :44.64, and eventually stopped the teletimer in 1:09.14.

The bay Kentucky-bred miss has now captured three of five starts, recording consecutive seconds in allowances at Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs before stepping up in the Dash Beauty on July 8, netting a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed rating for the 6 3/4-length victory.

Jose Lezcano was up on Alva Starr, the 7-2 third choice among five runners, and 3-1 second choice Jersey Pearl chased the pace before winding up a clear second. It was another 2 1/2 lengths to odds-on favorite Dazzling Blue, who offered a bid along the backstretch before retreating, and Unsung Melody and Unified Alliance followed.

Alva Starr counts 2021 Prioress winner Cilla, a daughter of California Chrome, as a half-sister. They hail from the distinguished multiple Louisiana-bred stakes winner Sittin at the Bar, who is also the dam of stakes winners Club Car and Jack the Umpire.

The seven-furlong Raven Run (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 21 is likely next for Alva Starr.

“We have a couple races marked out,” said Brinkman, who earned his first graded stakes win. “We will go into Keeneland and see. I feel like she can get seven-eighths. The pedigree, you know, we’ll see.”