12/02/2014 3:03PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Champagne Stakes

Tom Keyser
Daredevil wins the Grade 1 Champagnes Stakes at Belmont Park by 2 1/2 lengths.

Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes, one mile, Belmont Park, Oct. 4, 2014
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Daredevil
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Owner: Let’s Go Stable
Beyer Speed Figure: 107

Only six runners turned up for the Champagne, New York’s final major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run four weeks later at Santa Anita. This proved to be a big day for trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland with Carpe Diem and this race with DAREDEVIL.

Racing over a sloppy, sealed track, Daredevil was always going the best compared to his five rivals. He was lapped on HOLY BOSS down the backstretch and around the turn while at least four paths wide, easily disposed of Holy Boss entering the lane while kept four paths off the rail by jockey Javier Castellano, and never was asked for his best the length of the stretch while easily holding safe UPSTART, who finished second.

This was the second win without a defeat for Daredevil, but it’s hard to get a completely accurate picture of his ability, since both the Champagne and his debut win against maidens on Sept. 13 at Belmont Park were run on off tracks that were sealed. That said, he could not have been more impressive here, winning by 2 1/2 lengths while giving the indication he had plenty left and earning an eye-catching Beyer Speed Figure of 107. The Breeders’ Cup was to be his first try around two turns.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Daredevil completed one mile in 1:36.74, considerably faster than the three other one-turn miles run on this card. By comparison, in the Grade 1 Frizette for 2-year-old fillies, run two races earlier, it took 1:39.42 for By the Moon to complete the mile.

Upstart followed Daredevil while at least three paths off the rail on the turn, made a bid at the top of the stretch, but though he was no match, he crushed the rest of the horses in here, finishing 12 3/4 lengths in front of third-place THE TRUTH OR ELSE.

The Truth Or Else, last early, got within about four lengths of the leaders at the top of the stretch, took a while to swap over to his right lead, and then went evenly while never threatening the top two.

EL KABEIR broke slowly from his inside draw, rushed up quickly to challenge Holy Boss for the lead while racing in the two path, but steadily began to fade after a half-mile to finish fourth.

Holy Boss set a sharp early pace while kept well off the rail by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., but could not keep up with Daredevil entering the lane and tired badly in the final quarter-mile to finish fifth.

I SPENT IT, racing on the rail, was done after a half-mile and faded to finish last of six, a disappointing effort for a colt who had shown so much promise earlier in the summer at Saratoga, where he won the Saratoga Special and was second in the Hopeful. The fact he was so cold in the betting, the 4-1 fourth choice, may have foreshadowed that his form was headed south.