ITM analysis of the top 2-year-olds to watch from: September 26 – October 2:
(* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)
*Bond Holder (colt, Mineshaft – Cielo Girl by Conquistador Cielo) – A maiden going into a Grade 1 stakes race often appears overmatched, but several factors pointed to this Doug O’Neill trainee as a real contender in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita. He showed steady improvement with each race, had a late-closing style that indicated he would be primed for the 1 1/16-miles and – important as a son of Mineshaft – he was making his first start on dirt. These factors, along with a helpful swift pace up front, led to the 2 1/4-length win over Dance With Fate (Two Step Salsa). This is a colt who should continue improving with distance. He boasts the advantage of experience against top-level competition. O’Neill is off to a strong start at the Santa Anita meet and don’t forget he has a top turf juvenile filly in Clenor (Oratorio).
Jockey Mario Gutierrez: “This race set up great for my horse because he likes to come from behind. He seemed to like the distance today and I think that played a major part in his win. I don’t think the dirt made much of a difference because he runs everywhere; it was the distance that was the biggest factor.”
Leandro Mora, assistant trainer: “We had great expectations for this horse even though he was a maiden. He ran a huge race at Del Mar and we knew we had a legitimate horse. Mario has ridden the horse every time. We told him just to let the horse alone and let him do his thing the last quarter of a mile. That’s the way this horse likes to run; the last quarter of a mile.”
Trainer Peter Eurton’s Dance With Fate remains one to watch as he appeared full of energy post-race.
Eurton: “I think he broke well, which was a big key. I think he laid up close which I think was an important factor for him. I think the dirt bothered him a little bit in his face, which is why he took it outside. It hit him a little bit on the first turn. I think he’s maturing, but I think overall, he rated well. It was a good productive race.
”He’s only run three times now, and second down in Del Mar was a big key, because he had never run against that caliber of horses before. Over here was a key to see if he can handle the dirt as well as he handled the synthetic. He’s trained well on it, but he’s still learning. I think we’re going in the right direction for Breeders’ Cup.”
California-bred Tamarando was a late-rallying third in his first start on dirt.
Julien Leparoux on Tamarando: “He moved right before they opened the gate. He put his head to the side, and we tried, but we missed the break. I tried to get closer to the pace on the first turn, but I was behind two horses. If I tried to move too early I was going to be wide, too, so after that, I had to be patient and see where I could move.”
*In Trouble (colt, Tiz Wonderful – Ballpark Butterfly by Grand Slam) – The year of Tiz Wonderful juveniles continues as this impressive Tony Dutrow trainee increased his record to two for two with a win in the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park. With Joe Rocco aboard, he adeptly tracked speedy pacesetter Corfu (Malibu Moon) through swift fractions of :22.09 and :44.75 before he reeled him in and cruised to the wire in 1:09.64. It was a small field of five, and the top tier await the Champagne, but this colt is one to watch, particularly for sprints to middle distances.
Tony Dutrow: “I was feeling that we have a talented horse, and I’m not surprised at what I saw. I wasn’t predicting this, but I’m not surprised. He’s pretty good. . . I’d say within a week after his (maiden) race, (we pointed for) this race. It shows you a lot. This was the second race of his life and he was able to relax and give up the lead and finish up against quality horses. I think that’s a big statement for him.”
It was a puzzling effort from Sound of Freedom, a son of War Front making his third start for Todd Pletcher. He started last, fnished last and never factored in the race.
*Secret Compass (filly, Discreet Cat – Maria’s Pride by Maria’s Mon) – The distance made the difference for this Bob Baffert trainee in her dirt debut. Stretching out from the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante, in which she finished fourth behind She’s a Tiger (Tale of the Cat), and with Rosie Napravnik aboard for the first time, this filly charged from off the pace to win the 1 1/16-mile Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. Her running style has been consistent throughout her four-race career and indicated she might catch the speedy She’s a Tiger when going two turns. Napravnik kept her in a perfect mid-pack spot, where she stalked and moved stealth-like to rally and win by a head in 1:44.91. The final split was on the slow side (7:25).
Napravnik: “I was worried when I got to Gary’s horse (She’s a Tiger) that he would sprint away. He did for a little bit but my filly just kept running and she was all out sticking her nose out for the win. We’ll have to see if I’ll be riding her in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. I don’t know where Bob is going with her, so we’ll see.”
She’s a Tiger, a half-sister to Smiling Tiger, is one of the most talented 2-year-old fillies on the West Coast. She can hold her speed, but it’s likely her optimal distances remain sprint to middle.
Jockey Gary Stevens on She’s a Tiger: “She showed me two things today: she went to the gate quieter than she’s ever been, which is a big positive in stretching out, and she proved she can rate as well. She kicked clear coming into the stretch but I was pretty empty, but she still put up a fight. When she switched to her right lead, she was really laboring and I knew they were coming. I thought we might finish fourth. I wound up getting beat a head, or whatever it was, and she even started to come back the last sixteenth.”
Fascinating (Smart Strike), third, made her trademark closing run from far off the pace, but once again came up short. Watch for this half-sister to Bodemeister to be closer to the pace if she competes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she also looms a factor. She took a lot of dirt to the face in her debut on the surface.
Rafael Bejarano on Fascinating: “I had a good trip. She doesn’t like the dirt in her face. She’s not comfortable. We started to make a run but those two horses on the lead had too much of an advantage. It was kind of tough to catch them in the end.”
Bob Baffert on Fascinating: “She was so far back. I was a little worried about her today because I thought she was going to be a victim of the race track. She falls so far back and then comes running, but I really think she’ll move forward off of this. They’ll both (Secret Compass) be a lot better for the Breeders’ Cup.”
“It’s tough right now. You sort of have to ride the race track. It’s deep and it’s a little bit loose, still a lot of sand, so unfortunately, you have to have a good horse but you have to ride the track.”
*Aarons Orient (colt, Orientate – Are U Being Served by Jambalaya Jazz) – If the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint still existed, this Steve Asmussen runner would be front and center in the mix after a dazzling win in the Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park. He snatched the lead and never relinquished it. The colt, who broke his maiden in similar fine fashion at Saratoga, won by 3 3/4-lengths and finished in a speedy 1:09.59. This is a serious young sprinter.
*Wired Bryan (colt, Stormy Atlantic – Red Melody by Runaway Groom) – Trainer Michael Dilger opted for the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes over the Futurity at Belmont and watched as his gray colt stormed to a seven-length victory in 1:10.50. Despite recent disappointments when facing top company, the Grade 2 Sanford winner is obviously a graded stakes-class sprinter.
*Del Rio Harbor (gelding, Harbor the Gold – Bahati by Horse Chestnut) – The Washington-bred turned the tables on his nemesis Noosito (Harbor the Gold), who defeated him last out in the DRF Dennis Dodge Stakes, and appeared to enjoy stretching out to 1 1/16-miles in the Gottstein Futurity win at Emerald Downs.
*Secret Kitten (filly, Discreet Cat – Mossy Bank by Smoke Glacken) – The wins keep coming for this Kathleen O’Connell trainee. She’s three for three on the Florida circuit and boasts wins on two different surfaces.
Sing the Dream (colt, Songandaprayer – Out of My Dreams by Two Punch) – He’s won his last two races by a combined 18 1/2-lengths; most recent win was the Tin Cup Chalice Stakes at Finger Lakes.
Mister Pollard (colt, Pollard’s Vision – Sweet Summer by Summer Squall) – This Indiana-bred is three for three at Indiana Downs, including his most recent win, the Hillsdale Stakes.
*Regal Conqueror (filly, Sky Conqueror – Classic Stamp by Regal Classic) – She proved that flashy debut romp was no fluke as she handled stakes company with a win in the Victorian Queen going six furlongs at Woodbine. Her competition was getting to her late, though, and passed her on the gallop out.
Dallon’s Gold (gelding, Private Gold – Winning Weave by Basket Weave) – Another intriguing Washington-bred who has worked his way up from the claiming ranks to win the NWSS Cahill Road Stakes and increase his career record to three for three at Emerald Downs.
Legend Forever (gelding, Street Boss – Footsie by Touch Gold) – This Chris Richard trainee’s debut effort at Churchill Downs proved even more impressive upon analytical review. He started from the rail post in a large field – never an easy task for a first-time starter – ducked toward the rail and bumped rival Prayer on a Wing (Fusaichi Pegasus) before embarking on his journey. Jockey Brian Hernandez guided him boldly between runners, and the gelding responded fearlessly, moving efficiently and quickly through the pack to take the lead in late stretch. This runner showed a lot in his first trip; a final time of 1:11.64 on a track that was fast but had taken moisture earlier in the day. Prayer on a Wing is also one to watch from this race. The Mark Casse runner endured a tough trip, was wide in the stretch, and rallied from last to second in the six-furlong test.
Purple Sky (colt, Pulpit – Tessa Blue by Awesome Again) – One of two to flatter the promising Honor Code (A.P. Indy) last weekend by emerging from that key race to win, and this Al Stall trainee did it most impressively. Last at the break of the one-mile test, he weaved his way through traffic under the guidance of Robby Albarado and found himself in the middle of the track behind a trio of horses in the stretch. Albarado swiftly guided him to the rail, where he gathered even more steam and boldly passed his rivals, just nailing Commanding Curve (Master Command) at the wire. The fractions were pedestrian (:24.31, :48.00), thus not an easy set-up for the rally. The late-closing Al Stall trainee offered one of the most eye-catching wins at this distance of any juvenile so far this season. Pedigree suggests he can handle longer distances; his dam won the Indiana Oaks and the Inside Information Breeders’ Cup Stakes (by 12 1/2 lengths). Look out.
Misconnect (ridgling, Unbridled’s Song – Summer Raven by Summer Squall) – Just when it appeared Endowment Manager (Master Command) was cruising to victory, this Todd Pletcher trainee took a few taps from Javier Castellano and sped past the rival, ears pricked. A sharp victory for this full-brother to Winslow Homer; he won the seven-furlong test in 1:22.65. He’s one of two to flatter Honor Code; he was second to the son of A.P. Indy in his debut and Purple Sky (Pulpit), who was third, won at Churchill.
Miss Personality (filly, Broken Vow – Lucky Striker by Van Nistelrooy) – Apparently word wasn’t out on this Bob Baffert first-time starter, who went off at a cool 4-1 and romped by more than four lengths at Santa Anita. She tracked early – no easy lead – and although a bit green in the stretch despite blinkers, once focused, she really got into stride late in the race. She finished the six furlongs in 1:10.22. Her dam, Lucky Striker, was ultra-consistent, not finishing worse than third in nine career starts.
Survival (turf) (colt, Giant’s Causeway – Matlacha Pass by Seeking the Gold) – Just like his half-brother, Point of Entry, the Shug McGaughey trainee didn’t win first-time out, but delivered a promising performance. He overcame a very bumpy beginning and maintained position mid-pack behind the soft fractions before rallying late. He made a spirited move inside horses to get third behind winner Storming Inti (Stormy Atlantic) in the 1 1/16-mile test. A definite for the virtual stable.
Taketheodds (filly, Street Sense – Belterra by Unbridled) – Last at the start of the six-furlong test at Churchill under the lights, she gained substantial ground in the stretch for third at 33-1 behind gate-to-wire winner Jubilant Vision (Pollard’s Vision). Just what you would want to see in a debut of an Ian Wilkes trainee with the perfect router’s pedigree. Also to watch from this race is Baby Lis (Ghostzapper), a half-sister to Plum Pretty who was quite nervous in her first start and finished seventh. She should improve with time.
Interrupted (turf) (filly, Broken Vow – Alternate by Seattle Slew) – Where did she come from? She wasn’t even in the picture midway through the homestretch of the mile grass test at Laurel Park and 50-1 shot Big N Toasty looked home free on the lead. Granted the longshot was tiring, but the manner in which this Graham Motion trainee made up so much ground to win was impressive – she moved from ninth to the lead in the blink of an eye. She’s a half-sister to Alternation. Take note: Motion is loaded with intriguing 2-year-olds this season.
Kids Rule (turf) (colt, Lemon Drop Kid – Noisette by Broad Brush) – Wild finish to this mile turf test at Arlington as several closers rushed in at the wire and there were two disqualifications. This first-time starter showed immense fortitude when he bullied his way between horses to get to the finish in time over Full Metal, who had clearance on the outside. The Michael Stidham runner resembled his dam, Noisette, who powered her way to a win the Modesty over the same course.
Vero Amore (filly, Mineshaft – Summers Edge by The Cliff’s Edge) – She finished fourth in a key race won by Gracer (Exchange Rate) at Saratoga and followed up with a flashy win at Parx going five-and-a-half furlongs. Obviously the class relief was a help, but the Robert Reid filly looked strong while winning by more than seven lengths in 1:04.93. Nice router’s pedigree, so she should stretch out beyond these sprints.
*Shiva Ryan (turf) (ridgling, Tapit – Desert Queen by Wavering Monarch) – We tabbed him as one to watch after his third place debut on the Calder grass for trainer Bisnath Parboo. He shipped west to Santa Anita and displayed that fast turn of foot once again, rallying late and falling just shy of catching sharp winner All for Us (Tiz Wonderful), another winner for ITM Sire to Watch Tiz Wonderful. Long-striding Shiva Ryan prefers to come from far off the pace and could improve once he stretches out beyond a mile. All for Us endured a troubled trip in his debut on synthetic at Arlington and is also one to watch for trainer Tom Proctor. This was a solid turf test that could evolve into a key race.
Lulu Le’ Mon (turf) (colt, Lemon Drop Kid – Emanating by Cox’s Ridge) – This Ontario-bred’s powerful victory going 1 1/16-miles on grass at Laurel flatters Bobby’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy), as he was fifth behind that winner in what is shaping up to be a key turf route at Saratoga. This Tony Dutrow trainee is promising in his own right, moving from last to first and extending his lead throughout the stretch. A solid final time of 1:43.32 and final split of 6:41.
Groupthink (colt, Majestic Warrior – Road to Mandalay by Sea of Secrets) – He’s failed as the favorite twice now, finishing second each time, and he tends to become one-paced when behind a leader, but this is Chad Brown-trained colt should improve with experience. He could be one to take after his dam, who took a while to get started but won the Remington Park Oaks later in her career.
Movie Night (colt, Congrats – Feature Film by Forest Wildcat) – This Florida-bred was a late-rallying fourth in his debut at Parx going six furlongs; he made up more than 10 lengths in the stretch. Outstanding gallop out.
Georgia (filly, Tiz Wonderful – Lone Peak by Wild Rush) – This second-out winner for Bob Baffert improved on the move to dirt going a mile at Santa Anita and won in gate-to-wire fashion. Yet another on a long list of Tiz Wonderful’s winners.
Demonica (filly, First Defence – Storm Hearted by Lion Hearted) – She showed notable improvement from her debut when moving from synthetic to dirt. The John Sadler trainee made up substantial ground to finish third behind winner Versye (Square Eddie) at Santa Anita. Shee’s suffered from a slow break that’s hampered her efforts in both starts.
Sheltowee’s Boy (colt, Nobiz Like Shobiz – Miss Sheltowee by Najran) – Notable debut by this Brad Cox trainee, who liked like a veteran when he passed by tiring Malibu Heir (Malibu Moon) and won by more than six lengths on the sloppy track at Indiana Downs. A solid time of 1:10.52 for the six furlongs.
Alpha and Omega (gelding, Omega Code – Holy Belle by Holy Bull) – After a sharp runner-up showing in his debut, this Oklahoma-bred followed up with a romp by more than nine lengths in 1:04.23 for the five-and-a-half furlongs.