Eskendereya gave Todd Pletcher a clean sweep of the 2-year-old stakes at Belmont Park Oct. 3 when he split horses coming off the turn and bounded home to an impressive 7 1/4–length win in the $154,500 Pilgrim Stakes. (VIDEO)
Making just his second start and his stakes debut, Eskendereya defeated four challengers in the one-mile Pilgrim, which was taken off turf and moved to the main track because of poor weather conditions. The juvenile son of Giant's Causeway—Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew, is owned by Zayata Stables. A $250,000 yearling, he was bred in Kentucky by Sanford Robertson.
Scheduled as a “Win and You’re In” event, the Breeders’ Cup announced before the race that the winner would not receive an automatic berth to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita because the contest was run off turf.
Originally a grade III, the Pilgrim automatically lost its graded status due to the surface switch pending a final review by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Eskendereya near the back through the early stages of the race while saving ground. Bricklayer set the pace under Cornelio Vleasquez, taking the field around in splits of: 23.85 and :47.89 on a track labeled “good.” Western Flyer pressed the pace closely and Chairman Now, entered as a main track-only starter, stalked the leaders. Western Flyer took over to lead nearing the quarter-pole.
Bricklayer and Eskendereya moved in tandem coming off the turn, but it was Eskendereya who had the most gas and he shot past the Western Flyer approaching the eighth-pole, then drew away with authority in the stretch. The final time was 1:37.85.
Western Flyer stayed on for second, 1 1/2 in front of Chairman Now.
Eskendereya made his debut Sept. 7 on the Saratoga turf, finishing runner-up by 1 1/4-lengths to Billions Boy, who was also entered in the Pilgrim but scratched. The chestnut colt had worked on the Saratoga main track coming up to the race.
"The horse had trained very well and we knew he was an improving horse," said Pletcher, who won the Miss Grillo Stakes for juvenile fillies earlier in the day with Dad's Crazy. "He got excluded from a maiden race, so we decided to take a shot in the stake and then when it came off (turf) we had a decision to make, but we felt like the horse had improved in his training recently on the dirt and felt like it was worth taking a shot.
"I was particularly pleased with the way he finished up and the way he galloped out, I’d say that he’s typical of the Giant’s Causeways and probably good on any surface. We’ll talk to the owners about his next start; we have a lot of options.”
Sent off as the second choice, the winner paid $7.20, $2.90, and $2.20. The exacta (6-7) returned $22 and the trifecta (6-7-10) was $48.20.
Bricklayer finished fourth, followed by Dean’s Kitten. Also scratched were morning-line favorite Interactif, Mr. Vegas, Shrimp Dancer, and Paddy O’Prado.