Believe it or not, finishing 1-2-3 in a Grade 1 stakes can create a dilemma for a trainer.
It's certainly a problem anyone would love to have, but for trainer Steve Asmussen, after winning the $350,000 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes with Jackpot Farm's Basin and seeing his other two 2-year-olds in the race, Shoplifted and Gozilla, finish second and third, he has some sorting out in front of him.
"Those were three very talented horses and hopefully that was the last time they have to run against each other for a while," Asmussen said. "Though who knows, they might meet again soon. We've had an idea going in about what would be next for them, and the responsibility lies now with how they come out of it and how they get back to the racetrack."
For Basin, a son of first-year sire Liam's Map , the seven-furlong Hopeful on the rainy Sept. 2 closing day card at Saratoga Race Course surely spawned some optimistic thoughts as jockey Jose Ortiz kept him just off a duel on the front end and he took charge in the stretch, drawing away to a convincing 6 ½-length victory on a sloppy track over his two stablemates from different owners.
"It's a huge win," Asmussen said. "He's very talented and hopefully the racing gods will continue to smile on him. It's obvious he's not short on talent."
While the Hopeful was contested at a one-turn distance, the richer and more important tests for 2-year-olds await at two turns, and Asmussen believes Basin can handle that task after the talent he displayed in winning two of his three starts at sprint distances.
Prior to the Hopeful, he beat Three Technique (who won his next start by 5 ½ lengths on Aug. 31) by 1 ¼ lengths in a six-furlong maiden race at the Spa July 21 and lost by a nose to subsequent Sanford Stakes winner and Hopeful Stakes fifth-place finisher By Your Side in a 5 ½-furlong test at Churchill Downs June 14, his career debut.
"I've always been surprised at how much speed he showed," Asmussen said. "Physically and pedigree-wise, you were excited about running him long and we were surprised at how sharp he was the first time he ran."
After the scratch of morning-line choice Green Light Go, Gozilla, owned by Zayat Stables and Gary Barber, was the 13-10 favorite in a field of six coming off a 4 ½-length debut win Aug. 10 at the Spa that was so promising it gave Ahmed Zayat a reason to watch one of his horses run at Saratoga for the first time since American Pharoah was beaten in the 2015 Travers Stakes.
The son of Flatter broke quickly but found himself locked in what proved to be a costly battle for the lead with American Butterfly through fractions of :22.66 and :45.84.
"Gozilla pulled a little down the backside, which I wished he hadn't have done," Asmussen said.
Directly behind them, Ortiz was sitting chilly with 3.10-1 third choice Basin, about a length off the lead.
"I saw them going at it and at seven furlongs for the first time with these babies you have to be a little careful," said Ortiz, who captured his third riding title at Saratoga and picked up his 60th win of the meet in the Grade 1 setting of the Hopeful. "I took my time. I could have moved sooner but they were fighting and I didn't want to. I gave my horse a really nice breather from the 3/8ths pole to the quarter pole and it really made a big difference."
Basin took charge in the stretch and drew clear, crossing the wire in 1:23.48 over a sloppy racetrack and becoming the first Grade 1 winner for his sire.
The Liam's Map runner was bought for $150,000 from the Brookdale consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale.
Grandview Equine, Cheyenne Stables and LNJ Foxwoods' Shoplifted, the 2.80-1 second choice, closed from last to collar Gozilla in the final strides and grab second. American Butterfly was another two lengths back in fourth.
Like Gozilla, Shoplifted was exiting a debut win at the Spa.
"Gozilla didn't get a lot out of his maiden race 22 days ago and in off going he was blowing pretty hard afterwards. Shoplifted spun his wheels coming out of there and it took a while for him to get his feet under him," Asmussen said. "In having the two races, Basin benefitted."