HOPEFUL STAKES | PURSE: $350,000 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 7 FURLONGS
Competitive Edge lived up to his 3-5 odds with a no-doubt-about-it romp in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds on closing day of the Saratoga Race Course summer meet Sept. 1.
Saratoga Special winner I Spent It was a clear second, with late-running Sharm third in the field of seven juveniles.
The first two finishers are by WinStar Farm sire Super Saver, the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner. WinStar also bred Competitive Edge in Kentucky out of the Cape Town mare Magdalena's Chase.
Trainer Todd Pletcher earned his 999th lifetime stakes win with Competitive Edge, whom he conditions for owners Nancy Favreau, Kathy Psoinos, and Michael Tabor.
With John Velazquez aboard, Competitive Edge edged away from I Spent It leaving the three-sixteenths pole and was much the best through the stretch under a strong hand ride, winning by 5 3/4 lengths. Competitive Edge, a 10 ¼-length maiden debut winner at Saratoga July 26, completed the seven-furlong distance in 1:24.11 on a good track.
"The thing that's really cool for us is he's a son of Super Saver, and he's our Derby winner," noted Pletcher, who previously won the Hopeful with Circular Quay in 2006 and Shanghai Bobby in 2012. "To see him getting off to such a great start at stud, to have a Hopeful winner in his first crop, it's kind of extra special for us having a son of Super Saver do that.
"I think I Spent It is a very good horse as well, as he showed in the Saratoga Special. I've had a close eye on him, being a son of Super Saver also, and it's kind of cool that Super Savers ran 1-2 in the Hopeful."
While winning his debut on the front end, Pletcher has been working Competitive Edge behind horses and it paid off in the Hopeful. The bay colt sat third on the outside of Signature Cat and I Spent It down the backstretch following swift quarter mile fractions of :22.64 seconds and :44.81 seconds.
Velazquez asked Competitive Edge to turn up the pressure rounding the turn as Signature Cat weakened and dropped out of it and I Spent It continued to duel to the head of the stretch. However, there would be no Labor Day heroics for I Spent It, who could not match strides with the winner through the lane.
"[I Spent It] ended up being close to the lead, so that was my chance to put the pressure on him [rider Javier Castellano] and engage him and let him use his horse early on," said Velazquez after his first Hopeful win. "Between horses, he had to get in there. Between me and the other horse inside [Signature Cat] he had to ride, ride, ride to stay in there. It took him a lot."
"This one has a great talent," Velazquez said of Competitive Edge.
I Spent It, who overcame traffic trouble in the Saratoga Special with a rail-scraping bid to win impressively, settled for second by nine lengths over the maiden Sharm, who was followed by Requite, Dekabrist, and Signature Cat. Maratik was eased in the stretch.
Tony Dutrow, trainer of I Spent It, noted his charge has had behavior problems in the past and was "out of sorts" in the paddock.
"I knew that wasn't what I wanted to see, but I didn't know how he'd react to it," Dutrow said. "So today wasn't his day for a number of reasons. We'll work with him and hope for a better day this fall."
"He freaked in the gate," Castellano added. "Everything was wrong for him. He lost his mind. He broke out of the gate and he wanted to run off. He never was on his game today."
Carrying 120 pounds, Competitive Edge paid $3.30, $2.10, and $2.10, topping a chalky $5.70 exacta with I Spent It, returning $2.20 and $2.10.Sharm, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, paid $4.10.
A $750,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training purchase in March from consignor Niall Brennan Stables, Competitive Edge ran for Favreau and Psoinos in his debut before Tabor, who often partners with Coolmore, bought in.
Competitive Edge is the first foal and only starter so far for his dam, Magdalena's Chase, a multiple stakes-placed earner of $205,338 during a career that included nine victories in 32 starts.
Pletcher said that with the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park Nov. 1 in mind, some two-turn experience for Competitive Edge would be desirable.
"The Champagne [on Oct. 4 at Belmont Park] will be our first option, but we'll talk with the connections and make sure we're all on the same page," he said.
Pletcher has wrapped up his 11th Saratoga training title.