Trainer Todd Pletcher says he's not comparing new stable star Overdriven to last year's champion 2-year-old colt Uncle Mo . But he may have trouble keeping others from doing so after the good-looking bay colt drew off for an easy win the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Saratoga July 24.
Overdriven, who is owned by Repole Stable, also the owner of Uncle Mo, sat a perfect trip for John Velazquez on the outside of pacesetter Black Rhino. The prohibitive 3-10 favorite took the lead after drawing even near the quarter pole in the six-furlong test. Overdriven took firm command when given his head in upper stretch and responded well to brisk handling while shown the whip past mid-stretch to win by four lengths in a time of 1:10.60.
Pletcher collected his fifth win in the Sanford and his fourth in the past eight years.
“We felt like we had the best horse going in, but when you’re in situations like this, everyone knows what can happen in Saratoga and the history of upsets, so you don’t take anything for granted," Pletcher said. "I’m just happy he broke cleanly and put himself in a good spot. Johnny said he idled a little bit, kind of waiting on horses when he made the lead, but it was a real professional performance.
“Uncle Mo a year ago was a maiden. He was a month away from debuting, but we knew he was a pretty special colt at this point. (Overdriven) is 2-for-2 now and he’s obviously a very mature 2-year-old, physically and mentally, precocious and gifted with some natural talent."
Power World, who stalked Black Rhino and Overdriven into the stretch for Edgar Prado, was a clear second by three lengths over the late-running Jack's in the Deck, four-length winner of the Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park July 3. Black Rhino held fourth.
Black Rhino stepped a quick opening quarter-mile of :22.40. The half went in :45.67.
Six contested this year's Sanford after Bless the Soldier was scratched by the track veterinarian after rearing in the starting gate and ejecting jockey Jeffrey Sanchez.
Bred in Kentucky by Mount Joy Stables, Overdriven is a son of Tale of the Cat out of Air France, by French Deputy. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the $350,000 Keeneland yearling buy last September had one prior start, recording a 100 Beyer Speed Figure while posting a 3 1/2-length victory over maidens at five furlongs at Belmont July 1.
“He’s still a little green," Velazquez said. "When he gets to the lead, he gets to waiting a little bit. At Belmont, he had competition all the way to the eighth pole and kind of drew away with the other horse. Here he took the lead a little bit early and he started waiting.”
Overdriven had been working sharply at Saratoga for his stakes debut, including a :59 1/5 five-furlong drill July 18.
"Todd’s done an amazing job with this horse, and here we go again, man," owner Mike Repole said. "Pretty nice horse last year, and pretty nice horse so far this year. There’s only one Uncle Mo. And there’s one Overdriven. It feels good to get the first graded stakes win at Saratoga. Great win, great win, great win."
Next up on the 2-year-old schedule in upstate New York is the Three Chimneys Saratoga Special (gr. II) at 6 1/2 furlongs Aug. 15, to be followed by the seven-furlong Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 5.
“I’m sure the Hopeful is the logical next goal," Pletcher said. "It’s good spacing, and we ran him back a little quicker than we normally would after his maiden win because we wanted to get this race in and we’d get better spacing to, hopefully, the Hopeful. Hopefully, the Champagne after that would be what we’re thinking long term.”
Overdriven, who earned $90,000 for the victory, paid $2.60, $2.10, $2.10. Donald Adam's second-choice Power World, runner-up in the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) for trainer Neil Howard at Churchill Downs July 2, returned $3.30 and $2.20. The all-chalk exacta was worth $6.30. Jack's in the Deck, the only stakes winner in the field, was $2.60 to show for trainer Robin Graham.
Black Rhino was followed distantly by Moonrush and Tarpy's Goal. Maan was an early scratch.