07/28/2017 6:56PM

Outplay wires field in Curlin Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Outplay was alone at the wire in Friday's $100,000 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Todd Pletcher already has two pretty talented horses aimed at the Grade 1 Travers Stakes here on Aug. 26. Now, he has a back-up candidate in Outplay, who led from start to finish in taking Friday’s $100,000 Curlin Stakes by 5 3/4 lengths at Saratoga.

Breaking from post 2 under John Velazquez, Outplay made a clear lead entering the first turn running a quarter mile in 24.06 seconds. He remained in control through a half-mile in 48.71 seconds, six furlongs in 1:13.29, and a mile in 1:37.81. Despite racing erratically in the final furlong, Outplay was never challenged in covering the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.59. He returned $6.10 as the second choice.

Small Bear, a stalking presence down the backside, stayed on to finish second, three-quarters of a length in front of Perfect Partner. You’re to Blame, the 6-5 favorite, finished fourth and was followed, in order, by Everybodyluvsrudy, Thirst for Victory, and Hemsworth.

Outplay, a son of 2006 Travers winner Bernardini, won for the third time from seven starts. He is owned by Mike Repole, who purchased the colt for $275,000 out of the 2016 OBS March sales.

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“We felt like on paper we had a bit of a pace advantage – you never know what everybody else’s strategy is – but we felt like we had the most natural speed and wanted to take advantage of that,” Pletcher said. “We wanted to get to the first turn in good order and I thought he ran very well.”

Outplay switched to his incorrect lead in the stretch, and Velazquez attributed that to the colt’s reaction to being hit by the whip. Velazquez said Outplay did the same thing when he won his maiden race going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct in April.

Though winners of the Curlin typically run back in the Travers, Pletcher stopped short of committing this colt to that race. Pletcher is planning to run Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit in the Travers. Always Dreaming was scheduled to run in Saturday’s Jim Dandy Stakes against Preakness winner Cloud Computing.

Pletcher noted that Outplay won an allowance race at Parx in May, and Parx does host the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby in September.

“The Pennsylvania Derby could make some sense,” Pletcher said. “I’ll talk to Mr. Repole about it; I’m sure he’d be exited to run in the Travers. We’ll see how things go tomorrow and see how the Travers shapes up.”