Undefeated Shanghai Bobby used a stalking trip on the outside under Rosie Napravnik before pouring it on in the homestretch to capture the $400,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. II) on closing day Sept. 3 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
Shanghai Bobby missed the Saratoga Special (gr. II) Aug. 12 with a temperature. Part of a Starlight Racing entry trained by Todd Pletcher, the dark bay/brown colt but was overpowering in his return at odds of 2-1, winning for the third straight time.
The 3 3/4-length winner was timed in 1:22.72 on a fast track. Fortify, the 8-5 pick in the field of eight juvenile colts, finished second. Sanford Stakes (gr. II) winner Bern Identity, the only graded winner in the field coming into the race, was three-quarters of a length farther back in third.
Pletcher, who has already wrapped up the Saratoga trainer's title for 2012, won his 22nd race of the meeting with juveniles. The Hopeful included a $100,000 2-year-old graded stakes bonus provided by the New York Racing Association, making it worth $280,000 to the winning connections.
The Hopeful was reduced from grade I status this year by the American Graded Stakes Committee. The race is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, guaranteeing Shanghai Bobby a spot in this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park. Breeders' Cup will pay the $60,000 in entry fees for Shanghai Bobby to start in the Juvenile and provide the winning connections a $10,000 travel allowance to California.
"That was a very professional effort from him," he said. "So far, he's been very good. It seemed like he won with a little something left today; he was pricking his ears when he came to the wire. We're very proud of him.
"We've been blessed with a lot of nice 2-year-olds this year," Pletcher added. "It's nice to win the Hopeful to close it out. It would have been kind of disappointing not to close it out with a 2-year-old win. The Hopeful is a very important race; should be a Grade 1, but that's a different story. We're happy to get it."
Shanghai Bobby had not raced since winning the Track Barron at Belmont Park June 29. The colt had put in two solid works at Saratoga since recovering from his illness.
Majestic Hussar took the early lead from Overanalyze and opened a daylight edge while firing an opening quarter mile in :22.55, and continued to lead after completing the half in :45.28. Overanalyze and Fortify tracked the leader with Shanghai Bobby, who broke from the far outside post, racing mid-pack while wide.
Shanghai Bobby edged up three wide on the outside as the field rounded the bend to engage for the lead. He took over at the three-sixteenth pole and drew off to lead by 3 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch. Under a vigorous hand ride from Napravnik in the final furlong, Shanghai Bobby won as much the best.
"He was actually quite a handful today," said Napravnik, who has ridden Shanghai Bobby in all of his races. "Usually, he's a little more relaxed. Today, he was keyed up. It was all positive energy. He was ready to go. He did rate properly and finished really strong. He's a very talented horse.
"I really liked this horse since day one. He's very sensible, and he's been moving forward every race and really maturing. I thought he was going to excel off his last race. It's great to have him back and in good shape. I'm sure he'll move forward off of this as well."
Godolphin's Fortify, ridden by Joe Bravo, edged the late-arriving Bern Identity and Ramon Dominguez for second. Overanalyze was fourth, followed by Show Some Magic, Vegas No Show, Majestic Hussar, and Lawn Man.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonehaven Steadings, Shanghai Bobby is out the stakes-winning Orientate mare Steelin'. Shanghai Bobby was a $105,000 sale as a Keeneland September yearling last year.
He began his career April 12 at Aqueduct Racetrack, winning a maiden special weight at 4 1/2 furlongs by four lengths. The Hopeful victory boosted Shanghai Bobby's career bankroll to $367,000.
"The purse is $300,000, you get a $100,000 bonus, and I still have shares in Harlan's Holiday," said Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing. "I said to my wife, 'This is a pretty big race.' It's nice that NYRA came up with the bonus. It seems to have helped the 2-year-old program."
Under equal weights of 120 pounds, Shanghai Bobby, coupled in the wagering with Lawn Man, paid $6.30, $3.50, and $2.30. Fortify, the runner-up, paid $3.50 and $2.50 and was part of a $27.60 exacta. Bern Identity, coupled in the betting with Vegas No Show, paid $2.40 to show.
Royal Art scratched.