When highly-touted 2-year-olds Ready's Image and Maimonides hooked up at the top of the Saratoga stretch, it seemed that a memorable duel was in the making, one that could vault one of them to the top of the juvenile standings.
But like a blur, the picture changed, as Majestic Warrior came from the clouds, roaring down the middle of the racetrack to capture the $250,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) in electrifying fashion.
Majestic Warrior, saddled by Saratoga’s leading trainer Bill Mott, broke awkwardly from the gate, spotted the field a few strides, and then raced far back in the four-horse field. As Ready’s Image and Maimonides began their stretch duel at the far turn, jockey Garrett Gomez began to move the son of A.P. Indy--Dream Supreme along the rail, then drifted four-wide at the quarter pole.
It wasn’t long before Majestic Warrior, who trailed the field by 10 1/2 lengths after a half-mile, began eating up ground with huge strides. The Kinsman Stable's Kentucky homebred rapidly closed in on the leaders and easily passed Ready’s Image, who had gained a short advantage on Maimonides. Majestic Warrior won going away, taking the seven-furlong test by 2 ¼ lengths.
"Leaving the half-mile pole, I thought they had gotten away from our horse," Mott said. "At that point, I was wondering if he would be able to make up that kind of ground. He put in a tremendous run, and he has to be a good horse to make up that kind of ground. He was 10 out of it when they turned for home, and he rolled by them. He ran very professionally the first time. He’s the perfect student. You can’t ask for a nicer, better horse to train.
"Obviously, he proved today that he can handle the best colts we have on the East Coast. Probably, the logical step is to look at the Champagne (grade 1, Oct. 6 at Belmont Park). I can’t tell you what an exciting thing this is for me. I think I’ve run one horse in this race. I ran Paradise Creek in here, and he turned out to be a turf champion. Words can’t describe (the meet). This really tops it off. It doesn’t get much better than this."
Going off at odds of 6-1, Majestic Warrior paid $15 to win. Ready’s Image, who entered the race three-for-four, including a victory in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II), finished second, while Maimonides, an 11 ½-length winner in his career debut, took third. The exacta (1-4) paid $31.60. The final time was 1:23.04.
Majestic Warrior had only one start entering the Hopeful, a 3 ½-length maiden special weight victory Aug. 4 at Saratoga.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was not disappointed with the way 3-5 favorite Ready's Image ran.
“I thought he ran very well," Pletcher said. "When you are in a situation where you have two horses to beat, and one of them has speed and the other comes from way back, you have a decision to make. We wanted to keep (Maimonides) honest. He has a tendency to hesitate when he makes the lead. Today, when he got there and the other horse fell off, I think he got to wandering around a little bit.
"The winner had a nice setup. We were involved in the pace and he was way off it. He ran by us and we didn’t have time to regroup.”
Last-place finisher Georgetown was never a factor.