08/06/2012 11:09AM

Talking 2-Year-Olds


Although Fort Larned, the great Allen Jerkens, and Include Me Out all deserve the spotlight for their weekend exploits – Fort Larned was clearly the best in the Whitney, Jerkens continued his Onion-like work with Emma’s Encore, getting her to win he Prioress, and Include Me Out added to what is becoming an imposing resume winning the Clement L. Hirsch – I want to talk 2-year-olds.

Up to this point, in both New York and California, the 2-year-old fillies have been more impressive than their male counterparts. Executiveprivilege (by First Samurai), winner of her first two starts in runaway fashion, including the Landaluce Stakes most recently, has been labeled the best 2-year-old of either sex seen so far out west. Yet, a surprisingly large group of eight entered against her in Wednesday’s Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar.

At Saratoga, Kauai Katie (by Malibu Moon) and Teen Pauline (by Tapit) were sensational in every sense of the word winning their debuts. Kauai Katie, considered a possible for Sunday’s Adirondack at Saratoga, earned a Beyer of 100 (through Sunday, no juvenile of either sex anywhere has done better) for her 12 length romp after a stumbling start, while Teen Pauline earned a heady 92 Beyer for her decisive score. These two were so brilliant that hardly anyone is talking about So Many Ways(by Sightseeing), who made it 2 for 2 winning the Schuylerville opening day at the Spa.

But the 2-year-old males started to get a little more interesting over the weekend. It started on Friday when Jocosity ran a hole in the wind at Saratoga, continued into Saturday when Fortify and Palace Malice recorded impressive Saratoga maiden victories, and extended into Sunday when Know More won the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar as a first time starter.

Jocosity, second on Woodbine’s Polytrack in his first two career starts, including the Clarendon Stakes, was making his first start on dirt Friday. After being prompted into fast early fractions (21.79, 44.93), Jocosity ran out of the picture, scoring by 7 1-2 lengths in 1:02.85 for 5 1-2 furlongs, and earning a Beyer of 95. I don’t know how far Jocosity will want to go (he’s by Sharp Humor, out of a Stormy Atlantic mare), but he has a bright future as a sprinter, at least.

Fortify, a Darley homebred (soon, I’m sure, to be flying the Godolphin silks) by Distorted Humor, from an A.P. Indy mare, also showed high speed in his successful debut Saturday. After rearing up in the gate, he broke running to prompt a quarter in 21.73 and lead after half in 44.43 (yes, Saratoga’s main track was really fast before Sunday’s rains), and then drew off to win by 5 1-2 lengths in 1:16.34 for 6 1-2 furlongs. Because the track was so fast, Fortify’s winning Beyer was only 79, but his performance felt a lot stronger than that.

Four races later, Palace Malice (by Curlin, out of a Royal Anthem mare) drew off to a 3 1-2 length victory in the second division of this split juvenile maiden. And while he went his 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:16.48, slower than Fortify, he was given a Beyer of 83. I guess the Beyer folks thought the main track must have slowed down with three turf races in between these split divisions.

In any event, Palace Malice’s win was also noteworthy because it boosted the stock of Carried Interest (by Henny Hughes), who narrowly defeated Palace Malice when both made their debuts last month at Belmont in a maiden race I thought was stronger than any 2-year-old male race of any sort run so far. Carried Interest, by the way, goes in Sunday’s Saratoga Special, and is to meet Shanghai Bobby (by Harlan’s Holiday), who last time out at Belmont gamely survived a hot pace to win the overnight Track Barron Stakes to now be 2 for 2.

Finally, there might be a tendency to downgrade Know More’s Best Pal win because he did not beat a strong field, two who finished immediately behind him were fillies, and his winning Beyer after covering 6 1-2 furlongs on Polytrack in 1:16.14 was 82, which is just so-so for a Grade 2 stakes. But I don’t think that would be fair. Know More (by Lion Heart, from a Seattle Slew mare, and no, I’m not usually so hung up on pedigrees, but I thought since we were talking 2-year-olds people might have a greater interest in knowing). Unlike a horse making his debut against horses who have raced, but are still maidens, Know More made his debut against winners, and that is a distinction that should not be underestimated. Moreover, it certainly seemed as though Know More was gawking at the grandstand down the stretch, so it will be interesting to see what he does when he isn’t so green.

UPDATE, Monday, 1:16, pm - I would be remiss not to mention Dreaming of Julia, who absolutely wowed winning her debut in Monday's opener at Saratoga by almost 11 lengths, going 6 1-2 furlongs in 1:16.48. The daughter of A.P. Indy is, like Kauai Kate and Teen Pauline, owned by Stonestreet Stables, and while it's difficult to really tell at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if Dreaming of Julia was the best of the three.