The Street Cry colt's two starts to date have been impressive, including a 3 1/2-length triumph in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) on a muddy track July 24. In his debut at Arlington Park one month earlier, Desert Party pulled off the difficult feat of winning a 4 1/2-furlong maiden from post No. 10, drawing off for the 3 3/4-length victory in :51.97. In the six-furlong Sanford, he was taken back early by jockey Edgar Prado after being pinned on the inside, then came through to draw clear on the rail.
“He had to overcome adversity in both races,” trainer Eoin Harty said. “He ran four and a half furlongs from a bad post and won. He was impressive in the Sanford with that troubled trip where they tried to keep him pinned on the fence.”
Desert Party takes on a precocious field that includes Michael Tabor’s costly colt Munnings, a $1.7 million Coolmore buy at the same sale in which Desert Party was taken. Munnings, trained by Todd Pletcher, romped in his debut by 4 1/4 lengths over maidens going six furlongs in a swift 1:09.84 at Saratoga July 26.
“There’s a lot of risk involved,” Harty said. “(The purchase price) makes it worthwhile if (Desert Party) wins. He’s by a hot sire and he has been working well. Right now, it looks like he is capable of winning these types of races. Two days prior to the race (Hopeful), it looks like he’s worth the money. If he wins on Monday, he’s worth a lot more.”
A victory would also cap an outstanding Saratoga stand for Harty, who has three victories and three third-place finishes with just 13 starters heading into the final three days.
Desert Party kicked things off by winning the Sanford, but the highlight was Colonel John’s dramatic photo-finish victory over Mambo in Seattle in the 139th running of the $1 million Travers presented by Shadwell Farm (gr. I) on Aug. 23. Harty also had Past the Point, owned by Darley Stable, in the Aug. 30 Woodward (gr. I) that featured reigning Horse of the Year Curlin.
“I thought we had a great meet; it has been a fantastic summer,” Harty said. “We won two graded stake races and finished third in two others, (with) two more shots (over the weekend).”
Pletcher, who won the Hopeful with Circular Quay in 2006, knows this will be a challenging task for Munnings. However, Pletcher believes the son of 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) champion Speightstown can compete at this level.
“This is a big step forward going from a maiden race to a grade I race,” he said. “We are asking a lot from him because we do think a lot of him. Everything has been going according to our plans. He’s very a good-looking colt and he’s by a fashionable young sire.
“It takes a good horse to win the Hopeful. We know that. We are excited about running. We have high hopes.”
Also in the Hopeful field are Saratoga Special (gr. II) runner-up Break Water Edison, Sanford third-place finisher Vineyard Haven, highly-regarded Notonthesamepage, and recent Saratoga maiden winners Cognito and Cribnote.
Along with two stakes races, which also includes the $100,000 Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT), Saratoga will offer free grandstand and clubhouse admission as part of Saratoga’s Fan Appreciation Day.
$250,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:56 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Break Water Edison (KY), 120, Kent J. Desormeaux
2. Desert Party (KY), 120, Edgar S. Prado
3. Cognito (KY), 120, Shaun Bridgmohan
4. Munnings (KY), 120, John R. Velazquez
5. Vineyard Haven (FL), 120, Alan Garcia
6. Medaglia d'Onore (KY), 120, Channing Hill
7. Notonthesamepage (KY), 120, Elvis Trujillo
8. Cribnote (NY), 119, Rajiv Maragh