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Saratoga: Sanford has nearly flawless field lined up
By Mike Welsch
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With a combined record of 9 victories in 10 starts, the field for Sunday's $200,000 Sanford Stakes here is not only a precocious one, it also is indisputable evidence of why it is so difficult to win a graded stakes for 2-year-olds during the Saratoga meeting.
Hollywood Talent is the only member of the Sanford lineup with a blemish on his record, although that blemish was a respectable second-place finish behind Debt Ceiling in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on June 29 at Churchill Downs. Debt Ceiling, who is perfect in three starts, also is a member of the Sanford field, along with All in Blue, Southern Blessing, Wired Bryan, Jake's Magic Hat, and Yes Liz, all of whom won their only previous starts.
All in Blue may go off as the slight favorite in the Grade 2 Sanford by virtue of his easy 6 1/4-length debut win at Belmont Park on July 4 and the fact he hails from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, who sent out 23 juvenile winners during the 2012 Saratoga meeting. All in Blue, a son of More Than Ready owned by Starlight Racing, also earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for his maiden victory, the highest number of any member of the Sanford field.
"I thought he ran great in his first out and has trained well since then," Pletcher said. "We weren't sure we were going to run him back on relatively short rest, but he breezed so well here the other day we felt like we had to."
All in Blue worked four furlongs in 48.60 seconds Monday.
Pletcher said he was concerned over the fact All in Blue drew the rail for his stakes debut.
"Post 1 would have been my last choice, but it is what it is," Pletcher said. "I think there's a lot of speed in there, and hopefully we can maneuver a trip."
Pletcher also entered Yes Liz, the only filly in the race, although she was to scratch after competing Friday in the Schuylerville.
Debt Ceiling has won his three starts by a combined 9 3/4 lengths, including the Bashford Manor, over a sloppy track, by 2 3/4 lengths after rallying to an insurmountable lead at midstretch. Trained by the Maryland-based John Robb, Debt Ceiling also captured Pimlico's Rollicking Stakes earlier this spring.
Jake's Magic Hat and the New York-bred Wired Bryan also were easy maiden winners at first asking at Belmont. Jake's Magic Hat rallied from just off the pace to a 2 1/4-length debut win going five furlongs June 21. Wired Bryan defeated an overmatched field of New York-breds by seven lengths 48 hours earlier.
"I thought he ran a very professional race in his first start, and it seems like we beat a good bunch of horses that day," said Eddie Kenneally, who trains Jake's Magic Hat. "There were some highly touted babies in that race, and while you never really know what you were up against in a field full of first-timers like that, when you win a maiden 2-year-old race first time out in New York it usually means you've got a pretty nice horse."
Kenneally said despite the apparent strength of the competition, he expects Jake's Magic Hat to run a big race Sunday.
"He's had ample time to recover from that race, has done real well in the month since he ran, and he worked great, 59 and two, at Belmont on Sunday," Kenneally said. "I believe he's going to give a good account of himself. It's just a question of whether he's good enough to beat a field like this."
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