Favored Currency Swap handled sloppy conditions at rainy Saratoga better than any of his nine juvenile rivals in the $250,000 Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), (VIDEO) edging a persistent Trinniberg on closing day of the 2011 season Sept. 5.
Rajiv Maragh guided 9-5 choice Currency Swap to a three-quarters of a length victory for trainer Terri Pompay and owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. A son of High Cotton bred in Florida by Stonecliff Farm, the bay colt is now two-for-two in his career after breaking his maiden by six lengths in his debut on a fast Saratoga main track Aug. 6.
“I don’t even know how to describe it," Pompay said of her feelings after winning. "I was so excited I thought I was going to pass out. This is my hometown. It’s been exciting and fun because I knew I was bringing a good horse. This horse is so special. I’m so proud of him that he came through."
As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, Currency Swap earned a slot in the starting gate for the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
The gooey going was the X-factor in the seven-furlong Hopeful since only one contestant, Trinniberg, had even been on an off-track before. Final time was 1:26.16.
Trinniberg, sent off at 68-1, finished second, with Big Blue Nation rallying for third. Second-choice J C's Pride was eased by jockey Jose Lezcano on the turn while racing mid-pack on the outside. He was vanned off the track.
Currency Swap was racing as part of a Klaravich/Lawrence entry with Clip the Coupons.
Shooting to the immediate lead was Trinniberg, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, who sped through a swift opening quarter-mile in :21.91 while leading Vexor and Hunt Crossing. Currency Swap broke with the leading group as well before being taken in hand by Maragh. He advanced into second before Trinniberg completed a half-mile in :45.14.
Those two separated from the rest of the field on the turn, but the taxing conditions soon reduced the battle to a stagger-fest as Trinniberg and Currency Swap approached the furlong mark. Currency Swap, under right-handed urging from Maragh, finally overtook Trinniberg and prevailed under strong encouragement in the final sixteenth. The final furlong was run in 14.67 seconds.
“I tried to put him in a spot that was pretty ideal for me on the outside in the clear where my horse was really happy," Maragh said. "(Trinniberg) put up a really strong challenge. I wasn’t sure I was going to win it until after I had passed the wire.”
Big Blue Nation, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, finished with interest to take third, 3 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up.
Currency Swap, out of the Pine Bluffmare Echo Bluff, brought $70,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky July sale last year. He recorded a 98 Beyer Speed Figure when he covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.02 to break his maiden impressively one month ago. The Hopeful victory was worth $150,000 and boosted Currency Swap's career total to $180,000.
"The sloppy track was an unknown factor," Pompay said. "I wanted to showcase him on a dry track, but he handled it fine. I thought the other horse (Trinniberg) would stop, but he kept on going. I guess he really liked the slop. My horse showed guts because even when the other horse pushed him out a little bit, he kept digging in.
"This is just the start, because now we can go forward from here. Obviously we’d like to do the Breeders’ Cup; we have to decide whether he’ll have a race in between, or give him the time. I think this horse is going to get better as he gets older, and I think he’ll like the added distance as well.”
This was the first grade I win for Klaravich Stable since Subordination captured the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in 1998.
“We’re ecstatic," said Seth Klarman. "It’s been a long time between grade I's for us. We were excited about this horse before he even ran. Nick de Meric picked him out. He runs the farm [Manuden Farm in Ocala, Fla.] where our babies grow up.
“We’ll see how he comes out. His next spot, logically, will be the Champagne (gr. I)." The one-mile Champagne is Oct. 8 at Belmont Park.
Under equal weights of 120 pounds, Currency Swap paid $5.80, $3.40, $2.60. Trinniberg, who was fifth, beaten by 26 lengths on a sloppy track in the Saratoga Special (gr. II) Aug. 15, returned $32 and $11.40. The exacta was worth a generous $275.50. Big Blue Nation, a first-out maiden winner at Churchill Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher July 3, paid $5.20 to show.
Laurie's Rocket was a distant fourth, followed under the wire by Power World, I'll Have Another , Hunt Crossing, Vexor, and Clip the Coupons.