Chapel Royal remained unbeaten in three career starts and picked up his second graded stakes victory with an eye-catching win in the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course Thursday.
Owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, Chapel Royal rated comfortably in third behind hot opening fractions of :21 4/5 and :44 4/5 set by Tremont Stakes (gr. III) runner-up Adage. Chapel Royal was then swung three-wide into the lane by jockey John Velasquez before easily surging past the leaders to win going away. Chapel Royal completed six furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10 2/5 and paid $4 to win.
Blushing Indian finished second and Flushing Meadows was third, followed by Boston Brahim, Adage, Pretty Wild Again and Heckle, who lost all chance when he stumbled at the start.
About the only real excitement was when Chapel Royal made a funny step in deep stretch.
"He was just being a little green," Velazquez said. "This was his first race in the slop. He was all by himself and looking around. I wanted to try to get him to relax and make one run; I thought he would be able to do it. He couldn't have done it any better."
Chapel Royal has now won three races impressively, and is making a serious run at the juvenile championship.
"We worked him behind a horse in his last work at Belmont," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He seemed to handle the dirt fine. Some horses get hit in the face with dirt and they back up. But he kind of pinned his ears and ran into it. I felt confident that he would handle that part of it, but I wasn't sure about the mud. There was so much speed in there today, that we felt in order to make this horse better down the road, we needed to get him back off the pace a little and teach him to relax. The horse handled the whole situation very well. He just shipped in a couple of days ago, and had never run over a wet track. I never worked him on one, for that matter. He's just a young horse, talented and learning. We felt like we were holding a good hand coming in, but like I said time and again, you come into Saratoga cautiously optimistic. This horse has run so well in his first two starts, we thought he was a deserving favorite. This colt has been as impressive as any two-year-old we've had. The plan when we came up here was to run here and if everything goes well, run him back in the Hopeful."
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Chapel Royal won his career bow at Belmont by 9 1/4 lengths on May 15. He returned to win the Flash Stakes (gr. III) by 5 1/4 lengths in his only other start.
By Montbrook out of the Cutlass mare Cut Class Leanne, Chapel Royal was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud Farm. He topped this year's OBS Calder 2-year-olds in training sale with a final bid of $1.2 million.