07/19/2017 12:20PM

As usual, Pletcher loaded with promising juveniles

Barbara D. Livingston
New York-bred What a Catch was one of two juvenile stakes winners for trainer Todd Pletcher on closing weekend at Belmont Park.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Todd Pletcher may have surrendered his title as perennial leading trainer at Saratoga last summer, but when it comes to victories with 2-year-olds, he remained second to none.

Fifteen of Pletcher’s 31 victories at the 2016 Saratoga meet came with his 2-year-olds, including wins in all three graded stakes for juvenile fillies. Over the last seven Saratoga seasons, Pletcher has won 112 races for 2-year-olds, an average of 16 per meet.

Already this year, Pletcher has won 18 races from 49 starters with his 2-year-old crop, including a sweep of last weekend’s New York-bred stakes at Belmont Park with What a Catch and Pure Silver. He hopes to add significantly to that number during the 40-day Saratoga meet, which begins Friday.

Pletcher has far from unloaded his ammunition in the division as he brings to Saratoga a fresh platoon of 2-year-olds as well as a bevy of maiden winners for the stakes program. He entered Stainless, a debut winner at Gulfstream, in Friday’s Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes, a race he has won six times. He has Admiral Jimmy and Bal Harbour for Saturday’s Grade 3 Sanford Stakes.

:: Saratoga Clocker Report: Get in-depth workout analysis for the 2017 summer meet

Machismo, a son of More Than Ready who brought $500,000 as a yearling, debuts for Pletcher on Saturday in the meet’s first maiden race for juvenile males. He breezed a solid half-mile in 47.67 seconds out of the gate here Monday.

Mojovation, a 2-year-old son of Quality Road, was the only horse to work faster than Machismo on Monday morning. He will likely debut July 29 in a six-furlong race.

“I think he’s a little more designed for a little longer,” Pletcher said of Mojovation. “I didn’t want to run them together.”

Other maidens likely to run here for Pletcher include Smash Williams, second to Psychoanalyze in his debut; Biblical, an $800,000 half-brother to Princess of Sylmar; Slot, whose dam was a half-sister to the speedy Trinniberg; and Coltandmississippi, a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of a three-time listed stakes-winning dam.

Chad Brown ended Pletcher’s six-year run as Saratoga’s leading trainer with 40 wins. He won five 2-year-old races, including two with Practical Joke, who won the closing-day Grade 1 Hopeful.

Brown has yet to start a 2-year-old in 2017, but is loaded with perhaps his deepest group yet. Engage and Mask are among the colts who figure to debut for him at this meet. Sportswear is a son of Frankel and is a half-brother to four winners. Transfer Pricing, a son of Bernardini, is a half-brother to Saratoga stakes winner Bahnah, and Proven Reserves is a half-sister to Saratoga debut winner J. S. Choice.

Separationofpowers, a daughter of Candy Ride, and the New York-bred Dooder had good gate works for Brown here Wednesday morning.

Last year, Mark Casse won eight juvenile races here and seems to be coming loaded for bear this summer. Mo Diddley, who overcame difficulty at Churchill to win his debut, is pointing to the Saratoga Special on Aug. 13. He worked a bullet half-mile here Monday. Snowfire, a debut winner at Churchill Downs, is entered in the opening-day Grade 3 Schuylerville.

Arrival, fourth in his debut after trouble at the start, is a half-brother to Bayern. He Takes Charge, a $625,000 purchase, is out of a dam who is a half-sister to Will Take Charge and Take Charge Indy. Flameaway, a winner sprinting on synthetic at Woodbine, will likely be sent long on turf here. Pretty Lady, an unraced daughter of Scat Daddy, has star potential, Casse said.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has averaged five 2-year-old winners at Saratoga the last four meets. He has already won a dozen 2-year-old races this year and has Buy Sell Hold and Laudation in Friday’s Schuylerville and Direct Dial and Baffin for Saturday’s Sanford. Copper Bullet, second in the Bashford Manor, is pointing to the Saratoga Special.

Among Asmussen’s maidens to watch for this meet are Tap Daddy, New York Central, and Lionite. Tap Daddy, a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred son of Scat Daddy, is entered Saturday.

“We’ve got some wonderful 2-year-olds, some tremendous opportunities,” Asmussen said. “But it’s not like someone’s entering one they don’t like against you. There aren’t many volunteers to lose at Saratoga.”

Christophe Clement has two winners from his first nine juvenile starters this year. Best Performance, who has a win and a second, runs in Friday’s Schuylerville. Talk Softly, fifth in a well-bet dirt debut, will make her next start on turf, where she had a decent work here Monday. Gibbet, Golden Orb, Lunar Phase, Secret Quality, and Strike are all likely to debut at this meet for Clement.

Brian Lynch believes he has a solid group of 2-year-olds, led by debut winner Psychoanalyze, who runs in Saturday’s Sanford, and She’s the Berries, second in her debut. He hopes to unveil Arch Value, Gemini, and unnamed filly by English Channel out of the dam Alharmina this meet.

Few trainers get better-bred prospects than Shug McGaughey and Kiaran McLaughlin. McGaughey’s pair of Closing Statement and Pink Sands have shown precocity in their workouts. Personal Time is a full brother to McGaughey’s Kentucky Derby winner Orb, and Sargeant Drive is by Tapit out of the Grade 1 winner Carriage Trail.

Among McLaughlin’s runners to tab at the meet are Avery Island, Enticed, Indimaaj, Make Merry, and the New York-bred Pauseforthecause.

Over the last 11 meets, trainer Mark Hennig has gone just 3 for 99 with his 2-year-old starters. But his victory last Friday at Belmont with the first-time starter Inalienable Rights could be a sign he’s ready to fire upstate as well. Puffery, a New York-bred daughter of Flatter, and Base Command, a Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow, were second for Hennig at Belmont in their debuts. Acrobat, a son of Trappe Shot, is likely to debut on turf. Sweet Offer is a full sister to Sidney’s Candy. My Miss Lilly, a daughter of Tapit, is a half-sister to Adirondack winner Just Wicked.

Since 2001, Rick Violette has won at least one 2-year-old race every summer but one. Among his prospects are Ultimateenticement, a New York-bred gelding by Drosselmeyer who ran second at Golden Gate in his debut; Howard Beach, second at Belmont in his debut; and My Mr. Wonderful, a New York-bred son of Scat Daddy who will likely go on the turf. Twofer is a half-sister to five winners. Violette has an unnamed son of Malibu Moon out of the dam Overandabeauty, who has thrown three consecutive debut winners, including Sky Gesture here last summer.

Gary Contessa has won at least two juvenile races in eight of the last nine meets at Saratoga. He hopes to find success with the fillies Bird Key, Gold Zipper, and Paddydunalot.