07/29/2017 4:09PM

Coal Front stays perfect with impressive Amsterdam win

Debra A. Roma
Coal Front and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Coal Front kept his record perfect and became a graded stakes winner by registering a very professional 1 1/2-length victory over Excitations and four other more experienced but overmatched rivals in Saturday’s $200,000 Amsterdam at Saratoga.

Coal Front missed his 2-year-old campaign after sustaining an injury while pulling up from a morning workout here last summer. But the well-bred son of Travers winner Stay Thirsty has made up for lost time at 3, beating older horses convincingly in his first two starts prior to making his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Amsterdam.

With John Velazquez aboard, Coal Front rushed up the inside to control the pace while pressed from the outset by Grade 3-placed Florida invader Mo Cash. Coal Front readily disposed of his early challenger into the stretch, opened a comfortable advantage near midstretch, and was never seriously threatened thereafter.

Excitations, turning back in distance after finishing off the board in his last two starts going two turns against Grade 3 opposition at Churchill Downs, lagged well behind the early leaders, began to advance on the turn, continued willingly through the final furlong, and while no match for the winner, was easily second-best, finishing 7 1/2 lengths in front of third-place finisher Singing Bullet. 

Coal Front completed 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.05 and paid $3.20. The win was the fourth in the first five races on the card for Todd Pletcher, who trains Coal Front for the partnership of Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners.

“We weren’t committed to the lead,” said Pletcher. “The thing we were focused on was letting him break and find his rhythm. We didn’t want to be in a speed duel, but we didn’t want to take away what comes easily to him. Johnny said he was very relaxed, he did it comfortably. He’s a very talented horse.”

Pletcher credited the gate crew with helping Coal Front break so alertly.

“We’ve done a lot of work with the gate crew. They’ve done a great job with him,” said Pletcher. “He loaded right in today, which he did not do last time. It’s hard to win a race, much less your first three. He was very professional, very relaxed in the race and kind of pricked his ears at the wire, which is hard to do when you run that fast.”

Pletcher said he has no doubt that Coal Front will stretch out considering his pedigree.

“We’ll be looking for at least seven furlongs next time,” Pletcher said, referring to the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens, formerly the King’s Bishop, at seven furlongs here Aug. 26, as a likely next start for Coal Front.