Salute the Sarge won the first three starts of his career, including the Best Pal (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 12, before suffering his first loss when second by a half-length to the surprising California-bred Georgie Boy in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) three weeks later.
Trainer Eric Guillot reportedly was headed for the $500,000 Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland on Oct. 6 with his bay son of Forest Wildcat. But then Drill Down, the third-place finisher as the favorite in the Del Mar Futurity, was euthanized after breaking down in a workout Sept. 24. Georgie Boy is being pointed to the California Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3. And the well-regarded Leonides, fourth in the Futurity, was declared out of the Norfolk with a foot problem.
A field of 12 was entered in the 1 1/16-mile Norfolk, including one filly, P.S.U. Grad, who was also entered in the Sept. 29 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) by trainer Craig Dollase. The Norfolk distance matches that of the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), making it a prime West Coast test for the Oct. 27 event at Monmouth Park.
Southern Equine Stable's Salute the Sarge, out of the Silver Ghost mare Dixie Ghost, has the kind of grinding style that figures to be well suited for the distance. But his longest previous effort came in the seven-furlong Futurity. To be ridden for the first time by David Flores, Salute the Sarge must deal with a difficult post, No. 11, in the bulky field.
Salute the Sarge is by far the most accomplished of the contestants with earnings of $236,540 in his four starts.
Dixie Chatter, trained by Richard Mandella, finished fifth although beaten by just 1 1/2 lengths in the Futurity. That was his first try against winners after breaking his maiden at Hollywood Park in July.
“He hadn’t run in a while and might have been a little fresh in the Futurity,” said jockey Richard Migliore. “He worked really well over Santa Anita’s new Cushion Track on Tuesday.”
P.S.U. Grad broke her maiden by four lengths in the Barretts Debutante at Fairplex Park two weeks ago and comes back quickly for Dollase, whose connections paid $5,000 to supplement her for the Norfolk. Dollase was unhappy after drawing to the far outside in the Oak Leaf.
Trickster Nickster, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden winner at Fairplex Sept. 16, was also supplemented by trainer Doug O'Neill for owner J. Paul Reddam.
Rivergrade Boy is the most experienced runner in the race with one win in six starts. He comes into the race off three consecutive runner-up showings, including Beau Brummel last time out at Fairplex.
Also coming out of the Del Mar Futurity are E Z's Gentleman (seventh), Drewthegentleman (eighth) and Sky Cape (10th).
$250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 4:30 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Beresford (KY), 122, Alex O. Solis
2. Rivergrade Boy (KY), 122, Tyler Baze
3. Drewthegentleman (KY), 122, Corey S. Nakatani
4. Yes It's a Cat (FL), 122, Michael C. Baze
5. Shore Do (KY), 122, Mike E. Smith
6. Guts (CA), 122, Joseph Talamo
7. Sky Cape (KY), 122, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
8. Dixie Chatter (KY), 122, Richard Migliore
9. P. S. U. Grad (KY), 119, Martin A. Pedroza
10. Dodgen Bullets (KY), 122, Martin Garcia
11. Salute the Sarge (KY), 122, David R. Flores
12. Trickster Nickster (KY), 122, Fernando Jara