China Horse Club and WinStar Farm's Theory parlayed his success from a standout debut win at Saratoga Race Course into the graded stakes ranks Oct. 15 with another impressive score in the $200,000 Futurity Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park.
The Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile son of Gemologist stalked early leader Moves Like Ali, moved alongside the frontrunner in the stretch, and pulled away late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Star Empire passed Moves Like Ali late to pick up place honors.
Off as the 1-5 favorite, Theory finished the six furlongs in 1:09.91 under first-time jockey Javier Castellano.
"Anytime you're a prohibitive favorite like that, you always want things to go well," Pletcher said. "He broke alertly, put himself in a good spot, and Javier gave him a little chance to get his feet underneath him and looked like when he called him, he finished up strongly."
Moves Like Ali set fractions of :22.62 and :45.35 through a half-mile, and held a head advantage with a furlong to run, but Theory's pressure on the outside proved too much.
"I loved the way he did (it). He does everything with such class," Castellano said. "He was composed in the post parade. I think you can stretch him out, he'll appreciate going long. I rode his father, Gemologist, so I enjoyed riding him."
The winner paid $2.70, $2.30, and $2.10 across the board. Star Empire brought $4.10 and $2.90, and Moves Like Ali brought $3 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich and Ronald Kirk, out of the Officer mare Gem Sleuth, Theory now has $169,800 from his two victories in as many starts.
Pletcher said after the race that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) could be an option for Theory off relatively short rest.
"Today, with the way he ran—the way he galloped out and came back—I think we at least have to sit down and have that discussion," the trainer said.
Later on the card, Matthew Schera's 15-1 shot Thundering Sky stole the $200,000 Pebbles Stakes for trainer George Weaver. The 3-year-old Sky Mesa filly came off a third in the Sept. 24 Ontario Colleen (Can-IIIT) and picked up her first win since breaking her maiden six starts back. She rallied wide to the wire under jockey Antonio Gallardo, running a mile in 1:33.47 and returning $33.80, $15, and $9 with her three-quarters of a length win over Mom's On Strike. Favored Ancient Secret was third.
Thundering Sky was bred in Kentucky by Almar Farm out of the Unbridled's Song mare Uninhibited Song, and was purchased by her owner for $145,000 from the Select Sales consignment to the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga select yearling sale in 2014. She improved her record to 2-3-3 from 11 starts for earnings of $250,390.