08/31/2013 3:24PM

Saratoga: Hopeful has three making third start of meet

Tom Keyser
For Wired Bryan, the Hopeful will be his fourth start in 11 weeks.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – In an era when horsemen prefer more time between races, a trio of 2-year-olds will be making their third start of the 40-day meet in an intriguing renewal of the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Monday.

Wired Bryan, winner of the Grade 2 Sanford, Corfu, nose victor over Wired Bryan in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and the sharp second-out maiden winner Strong Mandate all are running for the third time here in the seven-furlong Hopeful.

By running in the Hopeful, Wired Bryan is, according to the New York Racing Association communications department, the first horse to run in all three graded stakes for juveniles since City Zip swept the three-race series in 2000.

“I guess we’ll find out if it’s a good idea,” trainer Michael Dilger said. “It’s a Grade 1 and we mulled it over and decided it’s a very good opportunity for him and where he’s at right now to possibly earn the win or a Grade 1 placing.”

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Wired Bryan, a New York-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, will be making his fourth start in 11 weeks as he won his debut at Belmont by 7 1/4 lengths on June 19. A sharp five-furlong workout in 1:00.80 on Aug. 26 led Dilger to believe Wired Bryan is thriving from the activity.

“He put in a fast work here last weekend, he’s had some similar works – maybe not quite that fast – in the springtime before his maiden race,” Dilger said. “He’s presenting himself like he’s going to run the same kind of race that he’s run before.”

Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Wired Bryan from post 8.

Corfu won his debut here on July 25 and came back to nip Wired Bryan by a nose in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 11. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, is known for spacing his horse’s races out, but said Corfu continues to come back for more.

“If you look at his first two races, you would think they were tough, grueling races that would knock a horse out,” Pletcher said. “Based on what we’ve seen it almost looks like he gained weight between the first and second race. After the second the race you’re wondering how quickly is he going to bounce back? Then, 48 hours later you’re like ‘Man, we got to train this horse, he’s literally going to injure himself he’s feeling so good.’ ”

Corfu is one of three horses Pletcher will start in the Hopeful. All in Blue, who stumbled while finishing fourth, and King Cyrus, the only member of the field with a win at the seven-furlong distance are the others. All in Blue was cross-entered in Sunday’s Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park, but drew the rail there and is expected to run here.

D. Wayne Lukas, who turns 78 years old on Monday, seeks his seventh victory in the Hopeful with Strong Mandate. A son of Tiznow, Strong Mandate finished fourth in his debut here on July 22 before coming back, with blinkers added, to win a seemingly-loaded maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths. Strong Mandate is running back on just 16 days’ rest.

“That doesn’t bother me at all. He’s a big powerful horse – that’s probably going to help him,” Lukas said. “That race wasn’t that hard on him, actually. I may get a surprise at the quarter pole, but I don’t think so.”

Lukas loved the post 9 draw for Strong Mandate.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out the uncoupled entry of Southern Blessing and Big Sugar Soda. Southern Blessing won his debut at Churchill then finished second to Wired Bryan in the Sanford.

“He ran a solid race in the Sanford, trained really well since. The extra ground shouldn’t bother him,” said Asmussen, who has Rosie Napravnik to ride.

Big Sugar Soda finished third in his debut at Churchill before winning his debut by 8 1/4 lengths here on July 22.

“Big Sugar Soda is fast,” said Asmussen, who added that seven furlongs is a “big question with is pedigree, but I think he deserves the chance as impressively as he ran over this racetrack.”

Mike Smith is flying in from Southern California for the ride.

Long On Value is 3 for 3, winning on turf and dirt. He was purchased privately by Wachtel Stable and turned over to Bill Mott.

Casiguapo, an 11-length winner at Calder, and Lunarwarfare, fourth in the Saratoga Special, complete the field.