07/20/2013 3:49PM

Steven Crist's Saratoga graded stakes analysis: Sanford Stakes


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The featured Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on Sunday is the first of three graded stakes at the meet for 2-year-old males, followed by the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Aug. 11 and the Grade 1 Hopeful on closing day, Sept. 2. This year’s Sanford drew a field of six that includes an interesting mix of Belmont and Churchill maiden winners and the first two finishers from Churchill’s Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes on June 29. (The race actually drew seven, but the filly Yes Liz ran Friday in the Schuylerville and will be scratched.)

All in Blue, a 6 1/4-length winner of his debut at Belmont on Independence Day, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, but I have a slight preference for Debt Ceiling, the 5-2 second choice. Debt Ceiling owns both of the field’s stakes victories, having followed a debut victory at Laurel back on March (!) 30 with victories in Pimlico’s Rollicking and then the Bashford Manor. He’s not only undefeated over three different tracks, but also has shown a wide range of versatility in those starts, leading all the way at Laurel, rallying from far back at Pimlico, and then taking command with a decisive early sweep at Churchill.

There’s nothing to fault about All in Blue, but he won’t get the same clear lead with a half in 45 as he did in his debut, and he’ll have to gun from the rail to get early position. He may face early pressure from both Wired Bryan, who walloped statebreds in his Belmont debut, and Hollywood Talent, who vied for the early lead in the Bashford Manor.

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