Starlight Racing's Shanghai Bobby remained unbeaten with a dazzling performance in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Champagne Stakes, winning easily by five lengths at Belmont Park, and confirmed his status as a top contender in the November 3 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt defeated a well-regarded group of rivals with regular rider Rosie Napravnik, completing a mile in 1:35 2/5, and paid $5.30, $2.90 and $2.10 as the 8-5 favorite.
Shanghai Bobby broke on top but eased back in second as Goldencents accelerated up the rail to take the early lead. Bet down as the 7-2 third choice off a smashing 7 1/4-length debut win at Del Mar, Goldencents reached the quarter-pole in :23 2/5 with a one-length advantage and continued to show the way by a half-length after a half-mile in :47 2/5, but Shanghai Bobby had drawn even nearing the conclusion of the far turn and dominated the rest of the way.
The dark bay son of Harlan's Holiday entered the stretch full of run, passing the six-furlong mark in 1:11 1/5 with a short lead, and Shanghai Bobby quickly opened up by daylight, drifting out late while rolling to the finish line.
"Bobby was on his game today," Napravnik said. "He broke real sharp and we sat real comfortable outside of the horse that was on the lead (Goldencents). He was taking me to the lead before I wanted to go, but he was full of it and did it as easy as could be.
"He's just gotten better and more mature with every start and I think he's just going to continue to grow and exceed our expectations."
"He's shown the adaptability to stalk, and yet he has tactical speed to keep pressure on someone, keeping them from getting loose," Pletcher added. "He's tenacious. He has all of the tools."
Goldencents held second, a length better than Grade 2 Sanford winner and Hopeful runner-up Fortify in third. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to fourth-placer Archwarrior, the 7-2 second choice off a well-regarded Saratoga debut win. Micromanage, who also left the starting gate at 7-2 following a sharp debut score at Saratoga, was never a factor and checked in fifth. Chief Havoc rounded out the order of finish. Bern Identity was scratched.
Pletcher also trains Archwarrior and Micromanage.
"(Archwarrior and Micromanage] ran like horses who had only one start," the conditioner said. "Archwarrior got stuck down inside, a position he's never been in. He got some dirt and just sort of ran evenly down the backside. I thought he showed some interest late when he got in the clear. Micromanage needed to do a little more. He was a little bit wide around the turn, and I think we learned a little something about the way he needs to be ridden; we probably need to place him in the race a little more. I thought both of those had credible performances.
"The one thing we felt Shanghai Bobby had going for him coming into the race was seasoning. Those three starts, sometimes, are really important."
A convincing 3 3/4-length scorer in the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes in his previous outing, Shanghai Bobby also captured the June 27 Track Barron Stakes. He opened his racing career with a maiden special weight victory at Aqueduct in April and has now earned $607,000 in four starts.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonehaven Steadings, Shanghai Bobby was a $105,000 Keeneland September purchase. He is the first foal to race out of the stakes-winning Orientate mare Steelin' and hails from the family of Grade 1-winning producer City Band. This is also the family of multiple Grade 3 winner American Lion.