Two-year-old colts take center stage at Saratoga July 30 as nine up-and-coming young Thoroughbreds look to take the next step on their budding career paths in the 95th running of the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (gr. II).
"The cream comes to the top at Saratoga,” said assistant Scott Blasi, who will saddle two of trainer Steve Asmussen’s promising youngsters in the six-furlong race.“This is the time of year when the 2-year-olds start changing, both physically and mentally.”
Padua Stables’ Enumerate and Ackerley Brothers’ Farm’s Louisvilleluminary, both of whom launched their careers at Churchill Downs, are the Asmussen representatives in the Sanford, which has been won by such stars as Afleet Alex, Forty Niner, Affirmed, Secretariat, and Upset (who upset Man o’ War in 1919).
A Florida-bred bay son of Proud Accolade, Enumerate was a five-length winner at first asking on June 28, coming from just off the pace, while Louisvilleluminary, a son of Pulpit, broke his maiden in his second start at 5 1/2 furlongs on June 20.
“They’re both pretty much in the same boat,” said Blasi. “They’re both quality colts coming off impressive maiden wins at Churchill, and now they have to take the next step.”
The most accomplished member of the Sanford cast is GoldMark Farm’s Backtalk, who gave his sire, 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, his first U.S. graded stakes winner as a stallion when he took the Bashford Manor (gr. III) at Churchill as the odds-on favorite on July 3.
The imposing chestnut colt, a $250,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September sales, was an eye-catching winner in his first start as well, circling five wide to post a 2 3/4-length victory in a five-furlong maiden event on June 11, also at Churchill. He will carry high weight of 121 to the others’ 119 pounds in the Sanford.
“He’s physically developed and very strong,” said trainer Tom Amoss of Backtalk, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Bsharpsonata. “He’s a very good athlete and I am looking forward to running him. As with any race at Saratoga, you have to be respectful of the other horses, but we have high hopes for him.”
D. Wayne Lukas knows something about winning baby races at the Spa – the Hall of Fame trainer has won the Sanford five times and this year will be running an entry in Westrock Stables’ Soundman, who was fifth to Backtalk in the Bashford Manor, and Activity Report, and eight-length winner in his second start in Kentucky.
As well, trainer Todd Pletcher, a four-time winner of the Sanford, will be sending out Wertheimer et Freres’ Interactif, a son of Broken Vow who held on to win by a head in his debut at Monmouth Park on July 5. Also coming from Monmouth is George and Lori Hall’s Nacho Friend, a six-length winner in his lone start on June 5.
Two faces more familiar to New Yorkers are Dogwood Stables’ Bricklayer, a son of El Corredor who broke his maiden at Aqueduct on April 23 and then was fifth as the favorite in the Victoria Stakes on Polytrack at Woodbine, and Klaravich Stables’ Bulls and Bears, a gray Holy Bull colt who was an eye-catching winner at Belmont Park on July 2 in his only start.