Maiden Balance the Books, last into the homestretch, took the overland route to nab pacesetter Joha on the line in the $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIT) Aug. 30 on the turf at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
An energetic Julien Leparoux guided Balance the Books to victory for trainer Chad Brown and owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence in the 1 1/16-mile test of 2-year-olds. The son of Lemon Drop Kid had raced once previously, charging from far back to finish a close second in a maiden special weight event over the course and distance Aug. 4.
Balance the Books, who defeated Joha by a head in the With Anticipation, was timed in 1:42.30 over a firm Mellon turf course. Charming Kitten, the 2-1 favorite in the field of nine, finished third.
Bred in Kentucky by Scott C. Heider and Knowles Bloodstock, Balance the Books is out of the unraced Seeking the Gold mare Kreisleriana. The bay colt sold for $160,000 in the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence had the confidence to go in this race," Brown said. "They give me some nice horses to train and I’m thrilled for them. They’re having a terrific meet as owners, and I’m happy to get a Grade 2 for them.”
Balance the Books' connections are considering the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park, Brown said.
“I think that’s the plan," he said. "He’ll have one prep before then; I’m not sure (where). The three of us will sit down and make a decision.”
The Pilgrim (gr. IIIT) Oct. 7 at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. IT) Oct. 6 at Keeneland are the leading options, Brown said.
Four scratches reduced the field to nine and allowed Balance the Books, on the also-eligible list, a spot in the starting gate. Balance the Books broke from the far outside post as Joha, stretching out following a six-furlong stakes win at Woodbine July 14, outfought several others for the early lead.
Joha, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, led Bernie the Jet by about two lengths as he posted quarter-mile fractions of :23.60, :47.71, and 1:12.08. Charming Kitten, with Javier Castellano aboard, and Notacatbutallama were also prominent throughout. Balance the Books fell well behind the rest while racing slightly off the rail, trailing by about seven lengths after six furlongs.
In the homestretch, Joha extended his lead to three lengths over Charming Kitten after Bernie the Jet gave way. Balance the Books, angled six paths wide for the drive, displayed a big kick. He rallied to be fourth at the furlong pole and responded under energetic handling from Leparoux to barely get up in time.
“He relaxed and made one run and galloped out," Leparoux said. "Ramon (Dominguez on Joha) obviously got a little jump on us, but I knew I could get him, and (Balance the Books) ran great today.”
Brown said he could see down the backstretch that Balance the Books was winding up for a big run.
"I knew it would be close, but he got a hard bump from someone (Hightail) leaving the quarter pole, and I thought that would probably cost us the race," he said. "In the shadow of the wire, my hope rekindled a bit and we got there. A strong finish by Julien, and I’m grateful for that. Terrific horse.
“He really trained well up here at Saratoga for his debut, and we loved him the first day we ran him. Of course, when you run a maiden in a graded stakes, you’re not overly confident, but when we got the call that we drew in this morning, we talked on the phone and it wasn’t much of a discussion. We were running.”
Joha, a son of Johar trained by Michael Maker, was forced to settle for second, finishing 1 3/4 lengths in front of Charming Kitten. Then came Notacatbutallama, He's So Fine, Hightail, Almost an Angel, Craving Carats, and Bernie the Jet.
The winner, earning $120,000 for the victory, carried 116 pounds and paid $10.80, $6, and $3.40 as the third pick. Joha returned $5.30 and $3 and rounded out a $53.50 exacta. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Charming Kitten, favored off a fine maiden debut win on a good Saratoga turf course July 28 for trainer Todd Pletcher, paid $2.90 to show. The trifecta was worth $162.50.
Private Tutor was scratched on the way to the starting gate. Earlier scratches were Special Skills, Sonofasamurai, and The B's and E's. Entered for the main track only were Lawn Man, Sweet Shirley Mae, and Read the Proposal.