Pletcher Juveniles Formidable in Hopeful

(from Saratoga report)
Trainer Todd Pletcher has claimed his fifth consecutive Saratoga training title in 2006 and his sixth over the last eight years. But even with a wealth of top juveniles, he has yet to win the Hopeful (gr. I). Pletcher is hoping to end that streak Monday with Michael Tabor's Circular Quay or James Scatuorchio's Scat Daddy.

"Both are very talented colts," Pletcher said of his two unbeaten runners. "That's why I'm running both. In all honesty, I hate having them run together. The Hopeful is a very hard race to win. Giving the timing of their situation, and being the Hopeful is such a prestigious race, it is the right thing to do with each individual. Hopefully, we'll get it done this year."

Both colts produced winning efforts in a graded stakes race in their last starts. Circular Quay won the Bashford Manor (gr. III) at Churchill Downs and Scat Daddy captured the Sanford (gr. II) at Saratoga.

"Both horses have similar profiles--they're 2-for-2," Pletcher said. "To me, both of them at the eighth-pole in their last race looked like they had no chance to win. Both of them salvaged getting up."

Circular Quay and Scat Daddy also learned a lesson in their last starts. For Circular Quay, who already learned to rally off the pace in his debut, he got it together until the last sixteenth of a mile in the Bashford Manor. Scat Daddy was caught along the rail and behind horses for the first time in the Sanford.

"Scat Daddy was in a situation where he was on the inside behind horses and getting dirt in his face," Pletcher said. "It wasn't until late where he was able to get clear and find his best stride. Circular Quay was behind a wall of horses. Once he found an opening on the inside, he really exploded."

The remainder of the five-horse field graduated from the maiden ranks in their last start: Irish Ace, Pegasus Wind, and Unbridled Express.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who turned 71 on Saturday, is looking to win his sixth Hopeful with Robert Baker's Pegasus Wind. With previous Hopeful winners like Deposit Ticket (1990), Salt Lake (1991), Hennessy (1995), High Yield (1999), and Yonaguska (2000), Lukas believes Pegasus Wind is on that level.

"He's a very special horse," Lukas said. "He looks like he can be anything. We're really high on him. We like everything we see in him."

In his debut, Pegasus Wind faced winners in the Bashford Manor where he chased after the pace through a half of a mile before fading to fifth. Lukas said he takes some responsibility for the colt's finish, which was 3½ lengths behind Circular Quay.

"I didn't have him tight enough that day," Lukas said. "I misread him. He's so gifted, and he does things so easy that he fooled me. He's a much better horse as he showed here at Saratoga."

Three weeks later over an off track at Saratoga, Pegasus Wind got to the lead and sustained it for a seven-length victory in the maiden race. The son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus  moves back up to the stakes level.

"It helps to have a nice two-year-old with some quality," Lukas said. "Timing is another thing. Our timing with Pegasus Wind has worked out well. We have been able to get more bottom into him and do other things with him. We're pretty comfortable on where we are at with him."

Trainer and co-owner Bernard Flint will saddle a horse at Saratoga for the first time in five year's with Conway-Hillerich Racing's Unbridled Express.

Unbridled Express revealed his talent in his last race where he drew off by four lengths and finished the three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 1/5.

Trainer Nick Zito completes the field with Tracy Farmer's Irish Ace, who broke his maiden by five lengths while finishing in 1:17 2/5 for 6½ furlongs in his debut four weeks ago at Saratoga.

$250,000 Hopeful Stakes (gr. I, Race 4, 2:36 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Scat Daddy (KY), John Velazquez
2. Irish Ace (KY), Eibar Coa
3. Circular Quay (KY), Garrett Gomez
4. Unbridled Express (KY), Edgar Prado
5. Pegasus Wind (KY), Cornelio Velasquez
Each assigned 120 pounds.