09/04/2010 2:32PM

All eyes on Boys At Tosconova heading into Hopeful


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – When Boys At Tosconova came into the stretch six lengths clear of his rivals in a July 2 maiden race at Belmont Park, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. had a flashback.

“It was like when we watched Big Brown run for the first time for us,” said Dutrow, referring to the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness for him in 2008. “We were scared to death to run him that day, but when he turned for home our whole lives changed.”

Speaking of Boys At Tosconova, Dutrow said: “The other day with him, when he turned for home you knew you had a really, really exciting 2-year-old.”

That’s why Dutrow is really, really excited to run Boys At Tosconova in Monday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes, the closing-day feature on an 11-race card at Saratoga. The Hopeful will be Boys At Tosconova’s first race since his maiden win, but that was by design.

Dutrow wanted to give the horse plenty of time between starts. Boys At Tosconova has trained extremely well in Saratoga for Dutrow, who has not stopped talking about this colt for the 6 1/2 weeks he’s been here.

“I get 30 to 40 babies a year,” Dutrow said. “I haven’t had one like him.”

Dutrow said that every rider who gets on Boys At Tosconova in the morning comes away in awe of the colt, who outworked the 3-year-old Trickmeister in an Aug. 17 move. That includes Ramon Dominguez, who was aboard for the colt’s 12-length maiden win in his first start for Dutrow after being purchased privately by Mac and Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable.

“What impressed me the most first time I rode him was he walked into the gate with an attitude that usually with a young horse like him you are kind of concerned if they’re even going to react when the doors open,” Dominguez said. “He was super sharp; he’s got the ability to go fast and to turn it off at the same time. He just has everything you’re looking for in a horse – acceleration and just a great, great mind.’’

Boys At Tosconova, a son of Officer, has not run in nine weeks and is going from five furlongs to seven furlongs. That does not concern Dutrow.

“It looks like there’s a couple of runners in there; I’m more afraid of them than I am the seven-eighths,” Dutrow said. “We’ve got to go further with better horses. We’re ready to try. We’re very eager to watch him run. He’s ready to run, too. He’s fighting mad. He wants to get it on.’’

Though seven were entered for the Hopeful, only four are expected to start. Nacho Saint, Chipshot and Printing Press were all scheduled to run in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Of those that remain, Wine Police looks like the biggest threat. Wine Police won his career debut by 7 3/4 lengths here on July 24. Soldat, who finished second to Wine Police in that maiden race, came back to win Friday’s Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes on the turf.

“We’ve all liked a lot of them working in the morning, but it was nice to see it in the afternoon,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s trained very nicely since. I got nothing but respect for the ability and the credentials the rest of the field gets there on. You see who’s going to run, and some very nice horses are about to get beat.”

Stay Thirsty, a son of Bernardini who cost $500,000 earlier this year, comes off a 5 1/2-length maiden win here on Aug. 14. Running a horse back in only 23 days is a little against what trainer Todd Pletcher usually likes to do, but Pletcher didn’t see any other viable options for Stay Thirsty.

“The horse bounced out of the race really well,” Pletcher said. “Felt it was a really easy race on him, thought he held his weight well. He acts as though he’s coming up to it in good order.”

Settle for Medal was beaten 14 lengths by Boys At Tosconova in that July 2 maiden race at Belmont. he came back to win a maiden race here on July 31 by two lengths. With the scratches of Nacho Saint and Chipshot, Settle for Medal will break from the rail under Javier Castellano.