Every summer, Saratoga Race Course serves as an epicenter of high-class juvenile racing. Day after day, week after week, promising 2-year-olds take center stage in competitive stakes and maiden races.
It’s commonplace for juveniles who compete at Saratoga to go on and win major races down the road. Whether they’re shining at the Breeders’ Cup or seizing the spotlight in the Triple Crown, Saratoga alumni are regularly found at the highest levels of the sport. Three of the last six Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets winners ran at Saratoga during their juvenile seasons, as did 2017 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming.
Looking to catch up on the most exciting 2-year-olds from Saratoga’s 2022 meet? We’ve got you covered with a list of five well-bred youngsters. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll see the 2022 Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and/or 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner emerge from this group.
Disarm didn’t debut at Saratoga; he actually got started in June at Churchill Downs, where he produced a big late rally to finish third in a maiden special weight behind future Grade 3 Sanford Stakes winner Mo Strike. But this performance proved to be a perfect sharpener for Saratoga, where Disarm dominated a maiden special weight race on Aug. 6.
Facing eight rivals over seven-eighths of a mile, Disarm left no doubt about his superiority. He wasn’t in any hurry to get going, settling a bit more than two lengths behind quick early quarter-mile fractions of :22.77 and :45.56. But Disarm started rolling off the turn and down the homestretch, taking command and powering clear to dominate by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:24.51.
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Asmussen enjoyed strong success with Gun Runner (voted 2017 Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards), and Disarm is shaping up to be the latest star for their stable.
Speaking of Winchell Thoroughbreds and Asmussen, they also have the exciting gray or roan colt Echo Again in their roster of young horses. A son of Gun Runner out of the Tapit mare Teardrop, Echo Again is a half-brother to 2020 Belmont Stakes participant Pneumatic.
Echo Again debuted in an Aug. 20 maiden special weight sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs (13/16ths of a mile), and he thoroughly trounced his opposition. Carving out quarter-mile fractions of :22.39 and :45.66 did nothing to tire Echo Again, who widened his advantage down the homestretch to win by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:15.89.
Tapit is a source of stamina, and Gun Runner is the sire of Grade 1 2022 Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting, so Echo Again is bred to improve with distance and maturity. We may be looking at a serious contender for 2023 Kentucky Derby.
The first two starts of Forte’s career produced mixed results. He dominated his debut dashing five-eighths of a mile at Belmont Park, winning a maiden special weight race by 7 3/4 lengths. But then Forte faltered to fourth place as the favorite in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes traveling three-quarters of a mile at Saratoga.
On the bright side, Forte bounced back in a big way for the Sept. 5 Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes over seven-eighths of a mile at Saratoga. The Todd Pletcher trainee was content to race off the pace through quarter-mile fractions of :22.74 and :45.57 on a sloppy track, but he pounced into contention around the far turn and down the homestretch, ultimately pulling away to beat Bashford Manor Stakes winner Gulfport by three lengths in 1:22.58.
Forte finished up strongly, running the final furlong in :12.41, and his pedigree (by Violence out of the Blame mare Queen Caroline) suggests longer distances won’t be an issue. By virtue of his Grade 1 win, Forte is the most accomplished colt exiting the 2022 Saratoga meet, and the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile looms as a logical autumn target for this Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable runner.
A trio of maiden special weights for 2-year-olds took place over seven-eighths of a mile on Sept. 3 at Saratoga. The first two produced modest winning times of 1:23.58 and 1:23.68, but the third told a different story as Instant Coffee flew to the finish line in a snappy 1:22.77.
Conditioned by two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, Instant Coffee was a bit slow into stride and found himself racing a few lengths off the pace through early quarter-mile fractions of :22.73 and :45.71. But he advanced strongly in early stretch and edged clear in the final furlong to win by three-quarters of length over the pace-tracking Arthur’s Ride, with the third-place finisher another five lengths behind.
Instant Coffee is a son of Bolt d’Oro, who won multiple Grade 1 races at age 2. Instant Coffee’s dam is Follow No One, a daughter of champion 2-year-old and successful sire Uncle Mo. There are plenty of early-maturing bloodlines in Instant Coffee’s pedigree, so don’t be surprised if he develops into a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender for owner Gold Square LLC.
Let’s see … Verifying is a son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify out of Grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Diva Delite, herself a daughter of four-time graded stakes winner Repent. There’s a lot of class in Verifying’s pedigree, and Verifying flaunted that class in an Aug. 27 maiden special weight race sprinting three-quarters of a mile at Saratoga.
Verifying was quick to get going in his first start for trainer Brad Cox, dashing to the front through fractions of :22.90 and :46.04. His closest pursuers tried to stay in touch down the homestretch, but Verifying clocked the fifth furlong in a rapid :11.81 and the final furlong in a solid :12.41 to edge clear and score by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:10.26.
Owned by the partnership of Jonathan Poulin, Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael B. Tabor, Verifying sold for $775,000 as a yearling and looks like a stakes-caliber racehorse in the making. He’s bred to stretch out in distance, so look for Verifying to run even better when tackling races at one mile and longer.