When it comes to 2-year-olds and Saratoga, Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows a thing or two about winning. Of the three major races for juvenile males at the Spa, Lukas has won the Sanford (gr. II) and Hopeful (gr. I) five times apiece, and the Saratoga Special (gr. II) three more times. On Aug. 20, Lukas will go for Special No. 4 when he sends out longshot Activity Report in the $150,000 event.
A field of nine was entered for the 6 1/2-furlong race. Post time is set for 5:31 p.m. EDT.
Lukas knows Activity Report may be up against it in the competitive Special, as the son of Bernstein—Chandrina, by Trempolino, finished seventh in the July 30 Sanford after having dueled for the early lead and battled to mid-stretch before fading. He won a maiden claimer at Churchill Downs in his second start June 27. Activity Report, owned by Westrock Stables, is the longest shot on the morning-line at 20-1. Jamie Theriot has the mount.
“I wasn’t pleased with the way he ran,” said Lukas of the Sanford. “I’m trying to find out more about him, and I’m going back into this one with a little different strategy, hoping he’ll make that one run.
“He’s a nice horse, but I don’t know how good he is. Hopefully, we’ll find out.”
That refrain seems to be the theme for most of the nine colts entered in the Special, including three who have only started over synthetic surfaces: Michael Tabor’s China, a winner at Keeneland April 23 in his only start; Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable’s Tiny Woods, a maiden winner at Del Mar July 25; and Gulf Coast Farms’ Fearless Cowboy, who has made all four of his starts at Woodbine.
“He’s been training well here (five furlongs in 1:00.88 Aug. 14) and it seems like a logical spot for him,” said trainer Todd Pletcher of China, a son of Tale of the Cat, who fetched $110,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
Also training well at the Spa is Tiny Woods, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00.98 Aug. 16 under the watchful eye of newly-inducted Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who then departed for California. The son of Roman Ruler, a $180,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September sale, will leave from post 8 under jockey Mike Smith.
“He seems like a nice one,” said Tonja Terranova, who oversees Baffert’s horses on the East Coast. “Bob liked what he saw this morning, and we are all excited about running him.”
Coming in from Canada is Gulf Coast Farms’ Fearless Cowboy, winner of two of his last three starts, including the $155,000 Colin Stakes July 18. The homebred son of El Corredor was fifth in his first start, a two-furlong event April 26. He drew the outside 9 post and will be ridden by Alan Garcia under top weight of 120 pounds.
“He’s first-time dirt, but he’s training well, and he’s a nice colt, so we just hope he handles it,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “If not, we’ll go back to synthetic, but he’s training very well.”
Paul Pompa Jr.’s D'Funnybone was installed as the tepid 7-2 morning-line favorite. The son of D'wildcat broke his maiden at Calder Race Course in May and was runner-up in the Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes over the same strip July 11. Pompa, co-owner of dual-classic winner Big Brown, has since privately purchased the colt and transferred him into the barn of Rick Dutrow Jr. Edgar Prado will have the ride.
The second choice is Zip Quik, a New York-bred trained by Patrick Biancone. Zip Quik broke his maiden at second asking June 20 at Hollywood and was runner-up in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship July 12.
$150,000 Saratoga Special (gr. II, Race 9, 5:31 p.m.), 2YO, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Thiskyhasnolimit (KY), S Bridgmohan, 118, S M Asmussen, 5/1
2. China (KY), J R Velazquez, 118, T A Pletcher, 6/1
3. Zip Quik (NY), J R Leparoux, 118, P L Biancone, 4/1
4. Flatter Than Me (KY), R Albarado, 118, M R Scherer, 9/2
5. Insightful (KY), J Castellano, 118, B Tagg 12/1
6. D' Funnybone (FL), E S Prado, 118, R E Dutrow Jr., 7/2
7. Activity Report (KY), J Theriot, 118, D W Lukas, 20/1
8. Tiny Woods (FL), M E Smith, 118, B Baffert, 8/1
9. Fearless Cowboy (KY), A Garcia, 122, K P McLaughlin, 8/1