Trainer Todd Pletcher shoots for a Grade 2 double with his team of juveniles
at Belmont Park on Sunday. Unbeaten Grade 2 Adirondack heroine Kauai Katie looms
large in the $200,000
Stakes for fillies, and debut maiden winner Unabashed gives the barn a
promising second string. But the Pletcher duo in the $200,000
-- Overanalyze and Drum Roll -- must step up their game while meeting hot-shot
maiden winner Carried Interest, speedy New York-bred Weekend Hideaway and Grade
2 Sanford runner-up Handsome Jack.
The Futurity and Matron are both contested at six furlongs. While a contender or two for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint is likely to emerge, there are also implications for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.
Kauai Katie has been pegged as the 2-5 morning-line favorite against just five rivals in the Matron. The Malibu Moon filly racked up a gaudy 107 BRIS Speed rating for her 12-length debut romp at Saratoga on July 20, and she came back to wire the 6 1/2-furlong Adirondack on August 12. Rosie Napravnik stays aboard the exciting prospect, who is drawn on the outside in post 6.
Pletcher commented on his choice of target.
"As (owner) Stonestreet also has Dreaming of Julia, who seems to be adept at longer distances, obviously you try to separate the two," Pletcher said, noting that Dreaming of Julia is pointing toward next Saturday's Grade 1, one-mile Frizette at Belmont. "This seems like a logical spot for Kauai Katie."
Pletcher has the short field surrounded, for Unabashed will break from the rail with a returning John Velazquez. The daughter of Elusive Quality had a rough trip in her August 17 unveiling at the Spa, yet rallied to win impressively by 4 1/2 lengths.
"Unabashed actually surprised us a little bit," Pletcher said. "Not so much that she won, but I didn't anticipate that she would be away a beat slow, find herself behind horses and would handle herself as professionally as she did. She took it all in stride and it was a very professional effort."
Sweet Shirley Mae comes off a closing second to the undefeated So Many Ways in the Grade 1 Spinaway on September 2. As many as 15 lengths back early in her first try without blinkers, the Wesley Ward pupil did her best work late and reduced the winner's margin to 2 1/2 lengths at the wire.
Also exiting the Spinaway is Seasoned Warrior, who was run off her feet throughout and wound up fourth. The Bill Mott filly will try to regain the form of her first two starts -- a near-miss to Baby J here and a resounding maiden score at the Spa.
The Rick Dutrow-trained Baby J has raced only once in the interim, finishing third to So Many Ways in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 20, and enters off a freshening. Parx shipper Doubled just rolled to a 1 3/4-length decision in the September 2 Sorority at Monmouth, but faces a class test among these.
Two races later in the Futurity, Overanalyze hopes to bounce back from a disappointing fourth in the Grade 2 Hopeful on September 3. The Pletcher colt had posted a good-looking debut score at five furlongs, earning a 101 Speed rating, but he backed out after arguing early in the seven-furlong Hopeful. A cut back in trip to six furlongs could help the son of Dixie Union. Velazquez sticks with Overanalyze, who is drawn right in the middle of the field in post 4.
"We were hoping to make a bit of a more gradual progression towards stakes," Pletcher said. "The allowance race didn't fill, so we took a shot and ran back in the Hopeful. For only the second start of his career, going from a five-furlong maiden to a seven-furlong stakes, it was a big step and I thought he performed admirably. He's a horse who will eventually stretch out in distance, but for now six furlongs is a good distance for him."
Pletcher's other runner, Drum Roll, looks exposed at this point. Since breaking his maiden at first asking at Monmouth, the Majestic Warrior colt has been well beaten in both the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Grade 3 Sapling last time out on September 2.
"I thought Drum Roll ran well in the Sapling," Pletcher said. "He got outsprinted the first part; broke a beat slow, but he continued on and showed interest."
Trainer Rick Violette, who was devastated by the fatal injury to his Saratoga Special hero Spurious Precision, could gain some consolation from the stable's other highly-regarded juvenile, Carried Interest. He rates as the 5-2 favorite on the Futurity morning line.
A son of speed merchant Henny Hughes, Carried Interest was an eye-catching debut winner at Belmont on July 5. He vied through torrid fractions before edging away and holding off Pletcher's Palace Malice, a performance that garnered a 103 Speed rating. Palace Malice flattered the winner when dominating a Saratoga maiden in his follow-up.
Carried Interest was originally penciled in for the Saratoga Special, but a sore shin postponed his stakes debut. His ill-fated stablemate Spurious Precision carried the torch in his absence, and now Carried Interest gets his long-awaited opportunity. He promises to flash high speed from the rail with Alan Garcia.
The pace should be quick with a few other speed-burners in the field. Weekend Hideaway has crushed state-breds by 13 lengths combined in his last pair, most recently in the August 29 David Stakes at the Spa.
Handsome Jack was part of a pace meltdown in the July 22 Sanford, but still battled on for second. Two starts back at Belmont, the Ward trainee finished runner-up in the Track Barron to Shanghai Bobby, subsequently the winner of the Hopeful.
Special Jo, a six-length first-out winner at Churchill Downs, was a solid second in the Sapling for Steve Asmussen. He was previously third in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and only sixth in the Sanford, however.
The well-bred maiden Gulfport, a son of Unbridled's Song and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dream Supreme, is cross-entered to Saturday's 2ND race. The Dale Romans pupil comes off a third to Pletcher's Micromanage at Saratoga, and in his only prior outing, he was second to the smart Maybe So at Churchill.