A pair of colts by first-year sire English Channel , Captain Webb and Optimzer, figure to be in the mix in Thursday’s With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga. The 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds will be run on the Mellon Turf Course.
English Channel, a son of Smart Strike who stands at Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., was champion turf male in 2007. A winner of more than $5.3 million and a six-time grade I winner on the grass, English Channel broke his maiden at first asking over the turf at Saratoga in the summer of 2004 for owner James Scatuorchio and trainer Todd Pletcher. English Channel currently ranks among the top 10 first-year sires.
The With Anticipation is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winner, if nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by Oct. 24, guaranteed a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT). Last year’s winner, Soldat, ran second to Pluck in the Juvenile Turf and later won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). Also appearing in last year’s With Anticipation were Silver Medallion and Air Support.
Scatuorchio’s homebred Captain Webb and Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer bring similar credentials to the With Anticipation; both colts emulated their sire by posting debut victories on the turf at Saratoga.
Over the With Anticipation’s course and distance on July 30, Captain Webb stalked a slow pace and kicked away in the stretch to a 2 1/2-length triumph. The runner-up in that race, Daddy Nose Best, returned to win by a half-length Aug. 27.
“We were pleased the horse who ran second came back and won this weekend,” said Pletcher, who trains Captain Webb for Scatuorchio. “We’ve liked the way he’s trained all summer, and his first start was what we were hoping it’d be. We’re optimistic.”
Captain Webb, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will be ridden by John Velazquez and break from the hedge.
“From post one, we should be able to secure some sort of position going into the first turn,” said Pletcher. “Ideally, he’d be laying in mid-division.”
Captain Webb is out of the Service Stripe mare Miss Mary Pat.
One week after Captain Webb’s debut win, Optimizer made a six-wide rally from seventh to get up by a neck in another 1 1/16-mile maiden race under a hand ride by Robby Albarado.
“He has the pedigree to be there,” said Will VanMeter, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. “He’s been working well, so we’re pretty confident he’s going to run well. Wayne’s philosophy, especially with the 2-year-olds, is that we’ll run against one ‘other-thans’ whether it’s a stakes or it’s an allowance race. The quality of the competition is going to be a lot stiffer, but you don’t really know who you are going up against. They all have the same conditions. If he has a debut maiden winner, he likes to wheel them back in a stakes.”
Albarado has the return assignment aboard the homebred Optimizer, who is out of the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick. Optimizer drew the outside post nine and is listed as 8-1 on the morning line.
“He’s a horse who doesn’t have a lot of early speed, so hopefully he’ll be able to get himself in a good position by the time they enter the first turn,” said VanMeter.
The 7-2 second choice is Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, who with three starts is the most experienced runner in the field. After finishing a non-threatening third and fifth in a pair of dirt maiden sprints at Churchill Downs, the son of Even the Score was second in a maiden race on the turf Aug. 13 at Saratoga.
Trained by Dale Romans, Dullahan will leave from post 4 with Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux in the irons. The $250,000 Keeneland September sale product is out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own. He was bred in Kentucky by Phil and Judy Needham and Bena Halecky.
Team Valor International’s State of Play stretches out in distance off a 2 1/2-length score in a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint July 27 at the Spa. As in his debut, he’ll ship in from trainer Graham Motion’s base in Fair Hill, Md.
Ramon Dominguez will ride State of Play from post 6.
Splendiferous, who took a $75,000 maiden claimer on turf Aug. 11 by 1 ¼ lengths in his lone start, will be making his first start for trainer Steve Margolis and owner Jake Ballis in the With Anticipation. He was previously trained by Mark Casse, who owned the colt in partnership with Tina Casse and Harvey A. Swartz.
Shaun Bridgmohan retains the mount aboard Splendiferous.
The With Anticipation field also includes maiden winners Fox Rules and Sportswriter and maidens Knock Rock and Two Months Rent. Clip the Coupons was entered for the main track only.
With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT), Sept. 1 $150,000, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles, Mellon Turf Course:
PP – Horse – Jockey – Wgt – Trainer - Odds
1 - Captain Webb (KY) – J. Velazquez – 118 – T. Pletcher - 3-1
2 - Knock Rock (KY) – R. Maragh – 116 – S. Schwartz - 8-1
3 - Fox Rules (NY) – J. Grabowski – 118 – M. Ferraro - 20-1
4 - Dullahan (KY) – K. Desormeaux – 116 - D. Romans - 7-2
5 - Splendiferous (KY) – S. Bridgmohan – 118 – S. Margolis - 6-1
6 - State of Play (KY) – R. Dominguez – 118 – G. Motion - 5-1
7 - Two Months Rent (KY) – J. Castellano – 116 – J.Toner - 6-1
8 - Sportswriter (NY) – R. Curatolo – 118 – C. Martin - 12-1
9 - Optimizer (KY) – R. Albarado – 118 – D. Lukas - 8-1
10 - Clip the Coupons (FL) (MTO) – J. Castellano – 118 - C. Brown - Even