07/18/2007 11:00PM

Scouting Report: 2-year-olds


Racing returns to historic and bucolic Saratoga, and while many things have changed in racing over the years, one thing has remained constant -- the quality of the 2-year-olds at Saratoga. On any given day of the week, you may be seeing next year's Kentucky Derby winner or 3-year-old champion.

By sheer volume alone the group of 2-year-olds who will likely see action here is staggering, and the high quality of these individuals will surely yield some future stars.

Any discussion of 2-year-olds centers around Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen, whose army of babies will be involved in every aspect of juvenile races -- maidens, allowance and stakes. (Pletcher and Asmussen declined to reveal their unraced

2-year-olds who will see action at Saratoga, and the accompanying list names 68 of their juveniles who have raced.)

H. Graham Motion, whose reputation has soared along with his racing stock in recent years, has an unusually large group of juveniles who have been working out regularly and with purpose. Among his large contingent is La Suena, a three-quarter sister to the fleet Acorn Stakes winner Forest Secrets, and Fleeting Affair, a full sister to Proud Citizen.

Kiaran McLaughlin has a filly that will spark much interest in Sabooh, who is by A.P. Indy and is closely related to Belmont winner Rags to Riches.

Barclay Tagg will also be well represented by two impressive maiden winners: Tale of Ekati and According to Plan. Tale of Ekati, who is by Tale of the Cat and out of a Sunday Silence mare, has particular appeal. His dam is a half-sister to champion Sky Beauty as well as to the unraced Our Country Place, the dam of Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, Country Hideaway, and Matlacha Pass (dam of Pine Island).

Precocious juveniles from trainer Rick Violette dazzled at the recently concluded Belmont meet and will be seen in stakes here. Phantom Income, by speed influence Montbrook, is out of a half-sister to Ghostzapper and City Zip. She should run in either the Adirondack or Schuylerville stakes, while Fed Watcher, who also sizzled winning his maiden debut, should run in either the Sanford or Saratoga Special.

John Kimmel, who is always stocked with well-bred babies, also has a large group this year. Among them is Lavender Luck, a filly from the first crop of Sky Mesa, who won the Hopeful Stakes over this track in 2002. Lavender Luck is out of a full sister to the dam of Barbaro.

Shug McGaughey has a small but select group of juveniles for the Phipps family, with pedigrees that trace to high-class runners who won at Saratoga. Cosmic is an El Prado colt out of Alabama Stakes winner Heavenly Prize, and Offshore is a Giant's Causeway colt who is a half-brother to last year's Alabama winner, Pine Island.

The freshman stallions will be on display, including Posse, who through July 16 led all first-crop sires with 10 winners, including two stakes winners, and the very hot Hook and Ladder, a stakes-winning sprinter who is causing quite a stir for the New York breeding program. Hook and Ladder, standing in New York, had 3 winners from 6 starters, and will be represented by many babies at Saratoga, especially for Gary Contessa and John Kimmel. High-profile freshman sires such as Aldebaran, Mineshaft, Sky Mesa, and Vindication will also be showcased by their numerous babies.

While these stallions were bred to a high-quality book of mares in their first seasons at stud, the freshman sire who attracted the classiest group of mares was Empire Maker. Bobby Frankel, who trained Empire Maker to win the Belmont Stakes, Florida Derby, and Wood Memorial, has many of his babies. Empire Maker was a late-blooming juvenile, and the majority of his foals are out of Juddmonte mares of the highest quality. Included in this group is Dulcet Tone, a filly from the family that produced Northern Dancer, Danehill, and Machiavellian; Country Star, a filly out of stakes winner Rings a Chime; and Geographic, a half-sister to Aptitude and Sleep Easy. Among the most intriguing 2-year-olds Frankel has is a Red Bullet filly who is a half-sister to Citronnade, Primaly, Poetically, Whiskey Wisdom, and One Over Prime (dam of Twilight Meteor), and a Storm Cat filly named Eagle Strike who is a half-sister to Latent Heat, Indian Flare, and Art Master.

Allen Jerkens and Jimmy Jerkens have some babies to keep an eye on. In particular, Allen Jerkens has Malka, a filly by Deputy Minister who is a half-sister to stakes winners Accelerator and Daydreaming and to the unraced She's a Winner, the dam of Bluegrass Cat.

In addition to Be Fruitful, a full sister to Corinthian, Jimmy Jerkens has Desert Key, a colt by the up-and-coming sire E Dubai out of a Storm Cat mare who descends from stakes winner Nine Keys.

Ken McPeek and John Ward have shipped some well-bred 2-year-olds who bear watching.

McPeek, who picked Curlin out of Sept. 2005 Keeneland sale, is back after a brief sabbatical from racing. In fact, he has a colt, Arizona, who is by speed influence Carson City from the female family that produced Curlin. Atrevido Bandito is a colt by the promising freshman sire Yankee Gentleman whose second dam is stakes winner Stella Madrid.

Among John Ward's juveniles is Storm Catch, a Vindication colt out of a full sister to Cat Thief; Forest Command, a colt out of Acorn Stakes winner Forest Secrets; and Indy Cheers, a filly by A.P. Indy out of a half-sister to Fusaichi Pegasus.

Trainers Mark Hennig, Bill Mott, and Nick Zito declined to reveal their 2-year-olds who will race at Saratoga.