09/03/2010 3:12PM

Pletcher starts another budding star


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. _ Todd Pletcher already had the strongest crop of 2-year-olds of any trainer on the grounds. Then he got arguably the most impressive juvenile filly winner of the meet sent to him.

Valiant Passion, who overcame traffic trouble to win a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 9 1/4 lengths, will make her first start for Pletcher in Sunday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga. She is one of four horses Pletcher entered in the Spinaway, a seven-furlong race which drew a field of eight.

In her debut, Valiant Passion was steadied between horses from the beginning of the far turn until the five-sixteenths pole before finally getting running room. Once clear, Valiant Passion made a three-wide sweep to the lead turning for home and finished full of run. Shortly thereafter, she was purchased privately by Team Valor International and turned over to Pletcher.

“She was obviously loaded up for a long time before she was able to get clear, and once she got clear she ran away impressively,” Pletcher said. “We’re thankful to have the opportunity.”

Valiant Passion will break from post 5 under Julien Leparoux, who was aboard the filly in her debut.

Pletcher will also send out R Heat Lightning and the Mike Repole-owned entry of Sky Hosoya and Stopspendingmaria. Sky Hosoya, who won a maiden race for a claiming price of $50,000, looks like she will part of the pace. Stopspendingmaria was second after setting the pace in the Schuylerville. Pletcher hopes to get an off-the-pace trip Sunday despite her breaking from post 2.

“I would have preferred to switch posts, but we’ll let her settle a bit then come with a run,” Pletcher said. “With a fast track and some other pace in there hopefully things will work out.”

Pletcher likes the outside post for R Heat Lightning, who won a maiden race at Delaware Park by five lengths before finishing second in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth.

Alienation, who finished second to the Pletcher-trained Position Limit in the Adirondack, figures to be part of the early pace under Channing Hill from post 3.

Abide, a debut winner by 3 1/2 lengths on Aug. 1, could be compromised by her rail draw, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.

“She’s a lighter-framed Tiznow filly who I think needs a little room,” Asmussen said.

Le Mi Geaux was a 9-1 upset winner of the Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day in the mud, and will likely be overlooked again.

Coax Liberty, third in the Adirondack, completes the field.