Maimonides Tops Short but Enticing Hopeful Field

Normally, a Grade I event with only four entries would be a bit of a letdown for horse racing fans. In the case of the $250,000 Hopeful Stakes, nothing could be further from the truth, as a terrific showdown amongst top-flight 2-year-olds is set for Saratoga’s main track Sept. 3.

Headlining the field is Zayat Stables’ $4.6-million purchase, Maimonides. The son of Vindication-Silvery Swan dazzled in his Aug. 8 Saratoga debut, rocketing to an 11 1/2-length maiden victory under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Maimonides ran the 5 1/2-furlong test in 1:04.41, drawing away from his overmatched rivals with ease. Since then, hoards of people have been buzzing around his Saratoga barn, sensing the next great 3-year-old is in their presence.

“Horses usually grab the attention when they are royally bred and can run well; everyone likes to see a nicely bred horse do well,” said Baffert, who has been training for Zayat since last year. “(Maimonides) did run off the screen. We think he’s a nice horse, but he’s got a way to go, especially after breaking his maiden.”

Maimonides was bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Hill ‘N’ Dale and Needham/Betz Thoroughbreds.

Although Maimonides is receiving much of the early hype, another Hopeful entry with seemingly limitless potential is James Scatuorchio’s Ready’s Image. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Ready’s Image may be the one to beat, as the More Than Ready  -Clever Phrase colt already has four races under his belt, including a four-length score in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) July 26 at Saratoga, in which he blazed six furlongs in 1:09.90.

Bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farms, Ready’s Image also has an impressive maiden win at Keeneland, a third-place finish in the Kentucky Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) and a 7 3/4-length victory in the July 1 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park.

Ready’s Image breezed five furlongs in 1:01.67 Aug. 27. “Ready’s Image has been training very well, and I expect him to run well,” said Pletcher, who won his first Hopeful with Circular Quay last year. “My main concern with him was the Tremont being a spectacular race, and we were coming back a little sooner than ideally we would have liked. We kind of zeroed in on the Hopeful as the main target. Because of that, we wanted to give him the extra space from the Sanford and here.”

John Velazquez will ride.

Another promising 2-year-old is Majestic Warrior, who will leave from the rail in the Hopeful. Trained by Bill Mott, the son of A.P. Indy-Dream Supreme made his debut Aug. 4 at Saratoga, winning by three-and-a-half lengths while coming from just off the pace. The Kinsman Stable Kentucky homebred ran six-and-a-half furlongs in that one, giving him a bit of an advantage in the seven-furlong Hopeful.

The final entry is Overbrook Farm's homebred Georgetown, who has two races to his credit, a third-place maiden finish and most recently, a five-furlong win Aug. 1 at Saratoga. Dallas Stewart trains the Storm Cat-McConnell Springs colt.

$250,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:20 p.m.), 2-year-olds, seven furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Majestic Warrior (KY), 120, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Maimonides (KY), 120, Rafael Bejarano
3. Georgetown (KY), 120, Julien R. Leparoux
4. Ready's Image (MD), 120, John R. Velazquez

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