While two-thirds of the 2012 racing season is already in the books, the fun is just beginning for 2-year-olds.
As usual, the recently concluded Saratoga Race Course and Del Mar meets presented a glittering stage for juveniles and several of them took full advantage of their time on center stage.
A year ago, the horse that went on to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) ran in the Hopeful Stakes (G1). The winner of the 2011 Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) blossomed into a Belmont Stakes (G1) winner. My Miss Aurelia, the undefeated 2-year-old champion filly of 2011, won the Adirondack Stakes (G2).
There’s no guarantee that will happen again, yet several horses flashed a precocious blend of speed and talent at Saratoga and Del Mar that could one day make them a champion.
At Saratoga, Shanghai Bobby bounced back from a fever that knocked him out of the Saratoga Special and captured the Spa’s richest and longest stakes for 2-year-old males, the Hopeful, for trainer Todd Pletcher. He was much the best in the seven-furlong sprint as he won by 3 ¾ lengths, but his breeding raises some question about his chances in two-turn tests like the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
The race Shanghai Bobby missed, the Saratoga Special, wound up showcasing the extremely fleet Spurious Precision, who vaporized the horses who tried to run with him in the early stages and still had enough left to hold off the late runners and win by five lengths. The same tactic probably will not work in a two-turn test, but if Spurious Precision can learn to harness some of that speed he would be a handful as the races get longer and richer for juveniles.
SPURIOUS PRECISION (Photo courtesy of HorsePhotos.com)
Considering how trainer Pletcher won 23 races for 2-year-olds, if there’s an up-and-coming East Coast star it just might be Archwarrior, who took his highly anticipated Spa debut at miniscule 1-4 odds.
On the filly side, Stonestreet Stables, which gave us Rachel Alexandra, unveiled quite a trio in maiden winners Kauai Katie, Teen Pauline and Dreaming of Julia. Kauai Katie came back to win the Adirondack while Teen Pauline finished third behind So Many Ways in the Spinaway Stakes (G1).
Dreaming of Julia promises to be the best of the bunch, especially as the distances grow more demanding. She won her debut at 6 ½ furlongs by 10 1/2 lengths at Saratoga and then followed that up with an even more awesome 16 ¼-length romp in the ungraded Meadow Star Stakes at Belmont Park on Sunday. Illustrating how powerful her performance in the Meadow Star was, the runner-up was Fully Living, who was third in the Adirondack.
“She looks really good," owner Barbara Banke said of Dreaming of Julia, who could make her next start in the Frizette Stakes (G1) on October 6 at Belmont. “Education is good for her. She’s a big, classy filly. I think she stretches out nicely. We were hoping she’d win (as easily as the first time) but it’s horse racing. They’re 2-year-olds, and it’s only her second start.”
DREAMING OF JULIA (Photo courtesy of Adam Coglainese/NYRA)
Out west, Rolling Fog followed up an impressive maiden win for trainer Bob Baffert by taking the Del Mar Futurity (G1) by 1 ¼ lengths and moving to the head of the class among the West Coast males. Settling for second was Know More, who won the Best Pal Stakes (G2) in his career debut.
On the filly side, Executiveprivilege made it 4-for-4 by winning the Del Mar Debutante (G1). The highly accomplished daughter of First Samurai has a late running style that should serve well in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
EXECUTIVEPRIVILEGE (Photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates)
The big question for both of them, though, is how they’ll handle dirt at Santa Anita Park in the Breeders’ Cup. There are no answers for that right now, but when you’re a 2-year-old, it’s still early. Way too early.
And what are your thoughts? Which 2-year-old has impressed you the most?