10/04/2014 6:54PM

Daredevil gives Pletcher another Champagne

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Tom Keyser
Daredevil scampers to a clear victory in the Champagne and will be one of the favorites in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile...

ELMONT, N.Y. -- A minor injury prevented Daredevil from making it to the races in the spring. He has certainly made up for lost time.

Saturday, three weeks after winning his debut, Daredevil stamped himself as one of the top 2-year-olds on the East Coast with an effortless 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes at sloppy Belmont Park.

Upstart, the undefeated New York-bred, finished second by 12 3/4 lengths over The Truth or Else. El Kabeir, Holy Boss, and I Spent It completed the order of finish.

This was the third straight Champagne victory and sixth in the last 11 runnings for trainer Todd Pletcher. Two of those Champagne winners, Shanghia Bobby (2012) and Uncle Mo (2010), went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Havana, last year’s Champagne winner, finished second in the Juvenile.

Daredevil, a son of More Than Ready owned by Let’s Go Stable, earned a fees-paid berth into this year’s Juvenile to be run on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

After showing speed in his debut, Daredevil on Saturday stalked the pace-setting Holy Boss through a quarter of 22.97 seconds and 46.22 while being kept in the five path.

Daredevil, under Javier Castellano, took over approaching the quarter pole and on a sloppy track that was playing extremely slow, Daredevil came home in a respectable 25.26 seconds while running a mile in 1:36.62. He returned $5.40 as the favorite.

“Today’s performance was very powerful,” Pletcher said. “He ran three seconds faster than the fillies on a track that didn’t look like it was playing very fast.”

Daredevil’s final time of 1:36.62 was 2.80 seconds faster than the final time of By the Moon in the Grade 1 Frizette.

Castellano, who took off the Grade 2 winner I Spent It to ride Daredevil, said the race reminded him of the day Bernardini won the Jim Dandy in the slop at Saratoga.

“Tom Durkin said he did not even break a sweat and it was 100 degrees,” Castellano said, recalling the 2006 Jim Dandy. “That’s what this horse did today. It was a sloppy track and he enjoyed it. He was just galloping, I didn’t ask him much. He’s a special horse.”

The win was one of four on the day for Castellano, whose biggest victory may have come in the last, when he escaped injury after his mount, Regal Minister, kicked him in the paddock. Regal Minister was scratched and Castellano simply had a bruise on his right arm.

Castellano was subbing for John Velazquez, who was at Keeneland, where he rode the Pletcher-trained Carpe Diem to victory in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, giving Pletcher another 2-year-old for the Juvenile.

Trainer Rick Violette said he had mixed emotions regarding Upstart’s second-place finish. The horse got bothered by I Spent It leaving the gate and was farther back than Violette had hoped. Still, he made a pretty decent run to finish second, well clear of the rest of the field.

“He got annihilated leaving there and that cost us position -- maybe enough to win the race,” Violette said. “He’s the only horse all day to make up ground [against] a real horse.”

Violette said he was uncertain whether Upstart would go on to the Breeders’ Cup.