Vineyard Haven, Cribnote, Munnings and Break Water Edison -- the top four finishers, respectively, in the Hopeful Stakes (gr.I) last month at Saratoga -- meet again in the $400,000 Champagne Stakes (gr.I) at Belmont Park Oct. 4.
Vineyard Haven, owned in partnership by trainer Bobby Frankel, Joe Torre, and Louis Lazzinnaro, won the Hopeful by 2 1/4 lengths over Cribnote. It was another two lengths back to Munnings, the favorite, in third. Break Water Edison finished a half-length further back in fourth.
The one-mile Champagne is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event and will afford its winner a starting berth to the $2-million Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. Last year’s Champagne winner, War Pass, subsequently won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the divisional title.
The Champagne drew an extremely talented field. Joining the Hopeful’s top four are: A. P. Cardinal, Brave Victory, Girolamo, Gone Astray, Hello Broadway, and Ventana.
Vineyard Haven’s current connections privately purchased the son of Lido Palace in July. In his first start for Frankel, Vineyard finished third in the Sanford Stakes (gr.II) at Saratoga July 24. In his next start, Vineyard Haven shook off pace pressure to win the Hopeful in front-running fashion at odds of 9-1.
“He’s done nothing wrong since we have gotten him,” Frankel said. “He acts and trains really well. We are hoping he runs as good as he trains. It looks like he is getting a little stronger (physically).
“I don’t know about the Breeders’ Cup. Just hopefully, he validates my opinion of him (in the Champagne).”
Edgar Prado rides Vineyard Haven from post 3. Alan Garcia was aboard for Vineyard Haven’s Hopeful win, but he will ride Girolamo for his main benefactor, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, in the Champagne.
In the Hopeful, Cribnote had an eventful trip after breaking from outside post 8. While in contention for the lead at the quarter pole, Cribnote bore out so badly it appeared he wouldn’t beat a horse. Under Rajiv Maragh, Cribnote got his act together in the stretch and amazingly secured second place.
Rick Violette, who trains Cribnote for Red Diamond Stable (Violette also trained the colt’s sire Read the Footnotes), is not taking any chances in the Champagne. The trainer will equip the New York-bred with blinkers.
“I think he really reacted to all the horses inside of him, like he had never seen a horse before,” Violette said of Cribnote’s Hopeful effort. “He was well past the middle of the track all the way down (the backstretch) to the turn. When (Maragh) angled him out (at the top of the stretch), he made a right-hand turn again. It was pretty dramatic, and he had never done anything like it before.
“We have breezed and galloped him outside of horses. His last breeze he wore blinkers. I’ll enter with blinkers and adjust them according to the post position. If we draw an inside post, I’m not sure I will do anything more than cheaters (small cups).”
Violette had to be pleased when Cribnote drew post 2. Maragh has the mount.
The Nick Zito-trained Brave Victory is an intriguing prospect, following his scintillating 7 1/4-length maiden win for owner Robert LaPenta at Belmont Park Sept. 20. Since 1998, Zito has won the Champagne five times.
The Darley Stable-owned Girolamo looks to atone for his non-threatening fourth-place finish in the Futurity (gr.II) over a wet track at Belmont Park Sept. 13. Girolamo, who is well thought of by his connections, was a sharp looking winner in his career debut at Saratoga.
$400,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 1 Mile (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Break Water Edison (KY), 122, Richard Migliore
2. Cribnote (NY), 122, Rajiv Maragh
3. Vineyard Haven (FL), 122, Edgar S. Prado
4. Hello Broadway (KY), 122, Eibar Coa
5. Girolamo (KY), 122, Alan Garcia
6. A. P. Cardinal (KY), 122, Channing Hill
7. Ventana (KY), 122, Victor Espinoza
8. Brave Victory (KY), 122, Jeffrey Sanchez
9. Gone Astray (KY), 122, Ramon A. Dominguez
10. Munnings (KY), 122, John R. Velazquez