If Saratoga Special (G2) winner Green Light Go can follow up in Monday’s $350,000 Hopeful (G1), the unbeaten juvenile would become the first since City Zip (2000) to turn the double. Six rivals are set to take him on in the Spa’s closing day feature – Sanford (G3) hero By Your Side and a quintet of sharp Saratoga maiden winners, including three for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, and an American Pharoah colt trying to give Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas his ninth Hopeful.
Green Light Go has captured his two starts by a combined margin of seven lengths. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee opened his career at Belmont Park by beating Another Miracle, who’s since won his next two, notably the Skidmore on turf. Green Light Go stamped himself a serious two-year-old in the Saratoga Special, rumbling to an impressive victory.
Stronach Stables’ homebred son of Hard Spun just fired a half-mile bullet in :47.00 on the Saratoga main August 27, prompting Jerkens to give him another run at the Spa instead of waiting for the October 5 Champagne (G1).
“He likes it up here,” Jerkens told NYRA publicity. “It looks like he thrived up here and it’s not a big jump up in distance, but it’s got him going up in distance in little increments (from 6 1/2 to seven furlongs). I like that. I think it’s good for two-year-olds as opposed to going from one extreme to the other. He’s a big strong colt so if any horse can do it, it’s him. Running once a month with gradual distance increases should be good.”
By Your Side, likewise two-for-two for Eddie Kenneally, also landed the Sanford in the manner of a proper prospect. Stepping up from a photo-finish decision over Basin at Churchill Downs, he drove three lengths clear at the Spa and became the first stakes winner for hot freshman sire Constitution.
Asmussen’s Basin, on the wrong side of the head-bob beneath the Twin Spires, promptly broke his maiden next time at Saratoga. Showing more early zip second out, he notched a field-best 96 BRIS Speed rating and became the first winner sired by Liam’s Map. The half-brother to Grade 3 scorer Rise Up picks up Jose Ortiz.
Note that Ricardo Santana Jr., who’s ridden all of the Asmussen trio, stays on Gozilla. By Flatter and out of a full sister to multiple graded turf winner Icy Atlantic, Gozilla lived up to his name with a beastly front-running debut at the Spa.
Stablemate Shoplifted, an $800,000 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale buy in March, swept from just off the pace to win his Saratoga maiden by 4 1/2 lengths, the same margin as Gozilla. That was a 5 1/2-furlong dash, though, so Shoplifted is taking a slightly bigger step up in distance than Gozilla and Basin. Joel Rosario takes over aboard the son of Into Mischief, the Spendthrift sire boasting four fillies in Sunday’s Spinaway (G1).
Lukas, who won his first Hopeful in 1990 (Deposit Ticket) and his eighth in 2017 (Sporting Chance), nearly thwarted the aforementioned City Zip in 2000, when his Yonaguska dead-heated for the win. This year Lukas relies on the American Pharoah colt American Butterfly. After a typically educational first start for the barn, he was a different horse in his next. The 22-1 shot shrugged off bumps on both sides at the break to vie for the lead and pull away.
Inside Risk faces the stiffest class test first off the claim for Tom Morley. Haltered from Repole Stable and Todd Pletcher for $50,000 out of his debut score, he rallied from far back to win going 5 1/2 furlongs. The well-bred son of Street Sense, out of a half-sister to Money Multipler and Intense Holiday, adds blinkers and new rider Dylan Davis.
One race earlier in the $250,000 Bernard Baruch H. (G2), defending champion Qurbaan hopes to fend off six challengers, half of them representing leading trainer Chad Brown.
Qurbaan upset last year’s Baruch at odds of 13-1 in his stateside debut, and return from an 11-month holiday, for Kiaran McLaughlin. Although winless since, the Shadwell homebred has placed in six of his ensuing seven, all graded stakes, and notably missed by only a half-length to Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar in the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day. Beaten the same margin when third in the July 12 Forbidden Apple (G3) at a mile trip that’s a bit sharp for him, Qurbaan should appreciate the extra sixteenth in the Baruch. He would be the first to repeat since Shakis, for the same connections, in 2007-08.
The Brown juggernaut comprises French-breds Sacred Life, who came up a nose shy in his American premiere in the Lure, and Olympico, who prospered on soft ground to shock the Fort Marcy (G3) back in May, along with British blueblood Emaraaty. A Shadwell colorbearer like Qurbaan, Emaraaty sold for the joint top price at Tattersalls October in 2016 – 2.6 million guineas ($3,472,014).
Group 3 winner Sacred Life sports the best form from their European days. A onetime classic prospect, the son of Siyouni chased Godolphin’s touted Ghaiyyath in last September’s Prix du Prince d’Orange (G3). Emaraaty didn’t live up to his ostentatious purchase price when flopping in the 2017 Dewhurst (G1) and 2018 Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot. But the Dubawi half to multiple Group 1 star Izzy Top did show some ability for original trainer John Gosden, and his successful U.S. bow hints that he has more to offer. Olympico, who was borderline listed class at home, would cheer the rain in the Labor Day forecast.
March to the Arch ranks as the 122-pound co-highweight with Qurbaan, thanks to his graded breakthrough in the Wise Dan (G2) at Churchill. The Mark Casse veteran has yet to score at the Spa, however, and needs to find more than his fifth in the Forbidden Apple and fourth in the Fourstardave (G1). Returning to 1 1/16 miles could help.
Last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2) hero, Noble Indy, lost his way on dirt but has revived on the switch to turf, although he too must do better than his recent fourth in the Lure. Projected pacesetter Dream Friend, third to Emaraaty last out, graduates to stakes company for John Terranova II.