Buckram Oak Farm's Silver Wagon and jockey Jerry Bailey kicked into gear near the eighth pole and pulled away to register a four-length upset over 2/5 favorite Chapel Royal in the $200,000 Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga Saturday.
In the 99th running of the Hopeful, Silver Wagon, a Florida-bred 2-year-old gray colt by Wagon Limit, drew away from the undefeated Chapel Royal, ridden by John Velazquez, to win easily. Notorious Rogue was third. The final time for the seven-furlong juvenile test was 1:23 2/5.
Velazquez broke Bailey's Saratoga record for victories in a season (55 wins) earlier in the day.
Ralph Ziadie trains Silver Wagon, who was making his first stakes appearance in the Hopeful. The colt was coming off a maiden special weight victory by 7 1/2 lengths at Saratoga Aug. 8, his second start. He now has two wins in three starts and earnings of $151,140.
Ziadie said he had to convince owner Mahmoud Fustok not to scratch the winner in favor of another one of his horses trained by Nick Zito.
"I told him, `Mr. Fustok, I'm not going to scratch. I am pointing him to this race today and I have to get a race into him over this track.' He agreed - and he scratched the other horse. I guess it paid off."
Zaidie said he believes Silver Wagon will continue to improve with longer distances, but that he would probably back off of him until next year.
"He probably won't race until Gulfstream, or we could find a race at Calder to prep in December," Ziadie said. "We'll ship him back to Calder, keep him there and get him ready for the big ones next year. He's a 2-year-old, the big boys are next year. I don't want to go to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)."
After breaking well, Silver Wagon was taken back to the rear of a compact even-horse field down the backstretch as Desert Patrol, Hasslefree and Limehouse dueled through an opening quarter-mile of :22 3/5. Chapel Royal, who captured the Sanford (gr. II) on a sloppy Saratoga strip July 24, was on the outside of the speed horses and edged his way to the lead coming out of the turn for home as they completed the half mile in :45 2/5.
Bailey moved the winner up behind the leading pack and waited patiently for an opening in the stretch. He found it by splitting rivals on the outside of Chapel Royal's Todd-Pletcher trained Limehouse. Silver Wagon quickly moved to even terms on the inside of Chapel Royal, who had gone on to lead by 1 1/2 length, and soon took command while drifting out a bit under left-handed whipping.
"He put himself in it, but I had nowhere to go," Bailey said. "So, I just bided my time. I had two options. I was going to have to stay inside if Birdstone kept me in there. He looked live, and I figured he would hang in until mid-stretch. But he kind of died off, so I could have gone outside. But Johnny's horse (Chapel Royal) drifted out just slightly and I had room to go in between. He didn't just burst through. He waited for me to ask him to run. With his demeanor and the way he runs, distance shouldn't be a problem."
Bailey won his fifth Hopeful. He previously captured the race with Copelan (1982), Capitol South (1983), High Yield (1999) and Yonaguska (dead heat with City Zip, 2000).
Velazquez and Pletcher refused to use the wide trip as an excuse for Chapel Royal.
"I'm not making any excuses," Velazquez said. He just didn't punch."
"I know he's a better horse than the way he ran today," Pletcher said. "If he's healthy, we'll go on to the next step."
Mr. and Mrs. Leverett S. Miller bred Silver Wagon, who is out of the Darn That Alarm mare So Ritzy. The winner was purchased for $120,000 in the February Ocala Breeders' Sale.
Sent off at 12-1, Silver Wagon paid $27, $5 and $2.60, combining with Chapel Royal, who returned $2.50 and $2.10, for a $64 exacta. Notorious Rogue, ridden by Eibar Coa, showed for $3.30 while closing nicely.
Birdstone, the 2-1 second choice of the public, was fourth, with Limehouse finishing fifth. Hasslefree and Desert Patrol brought up the rear. Golden Tones and Saratoga Episode were scratched.