There's a common thread linking Sunday's pair of $200,000 juvenile stakes at Saratoga, and it's the formidable presence of Todd Pletcher runners. The meet's leading trainer will send out impressive debut winner Kauai Katie in the Grade 2 Adirondack for fillies, while the unbeaten duo of Shanghai Bobby and Drum Roll will go to bat for the barn in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Kauai Katie, the 2-5 morning-line favorite, aims to give Stonestreet Stables its second straight Adirondack winner. Last year, the gold and burgundy silks were carried to victory by the Steve Asmussen-trained My Miss Aurelia, who went on to reign as champion two-year-old filly.
Like My Miss Aurelia, Kauai Katie starred on the Spa's opening day card and promptly joined NYRA's New York Watch. The $490,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida two-year-old in training purchase overcame a bobble at the start to grab the early lead, then never looked back. Widening her margin to 12 lengths at the wire, Kauai Katie sped 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03 3/5 and earned a gaudy 107 BRIS Speed rating.
"She trained exceptionally well here all summer," Pletcher said. "We were excited to have her ready to run, were looking forward to it, and she exceeded our expectations.
"Horses don't always come out of the two-year-old in training sales with that type of mentality. We'll continue to see how she handles added distances. She's very strong at the end of 5 1/2 [furlongs] and we're optimistic that with her mind set, she'll be able to carry it further."
Rosie Napravnik retains the mount aboard the Malibu Moon filly, who will break from post 3.
Only two others have raced over the track -- Fully Living and Sweet Shirley Mae, the respective fourth and fifth from the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes.
Fully Living was beaten a grand total of 3 3/4 lengths after a wide trip in the Schuylerville. Considering that she had previously beaten Schuylerville runner-up Can't Explain in their mutual debut, it's arguable that Fully Living didn't put her best foot forward in their rematch. The Ken McPeek trainee notably gets first-time Lasix here. The well-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song, a $425,000 Keeneland September yearling, is eligible to do better from a ground-saving post 2 this time, and picks up the services of Jose Lezcano.
Sweet Shirley Mae was even more disappointing in the Schuylerville, fading to fifth. Two starts back, the Wesley Ward filly had defeated Bern Identity, the eventual winner of the Grade 2 Sanford, in a Belmont Park maiden. Sweet Shirley Mae gets another chance in this spot and has landed the rail draw. John Velazquez, who rode her to her maiden win, regains the mount.
Three invaders -- the 120-pound co-highweights Cayllano and Salamera as well as Vitameta -- all seek to remain unbeaten in this 6 1/2-furlong test.
The Churchill Downs-based Cayllano has captured her two starts by a combined 17 1/2 lengths, good enough to lure Javier Castellano into the saddle. After dominating an Indiana Downs maiden, the Tom Amoss pupil ran away with the July 4 White Clay Creek at Delaware Park.
Salamera ships in from the tough Calder juvenile scene, where she is two-for-two. A 4 1/4-length debut winner for Rodolfo Garcia, the Successful Appeal filly fought her way to a neck decision in the June 30 J J'sdream Stakes, experience that could serve her well in this field. Angel Castillo will be back aboard.
Ramon Dominguez takes the call on Vitameta, who graduated by a terrific seven lengths at Calder. The daughter of Street Sense is in the capable hands of David Fawkes.
While Pletcher has already won the Adirondack twice, with Octave (2006) and Position Limit (2010), he is still seeking his first Saratoga Special, but unleashes two prime contenders in the 107th renewal.
Shanghai Bobby is the most accomplished entrant, and 2-1 morning-line favorite, in the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special. After a four-length debut score at Aqueduct on April 19, the precocious son of Harlan's Holiday coped with a difficult trip to add the Track Barron Stakes to his resume at Belmont. The form held up when Track Barron runner-up Handsome Jack finished second to Bern Identity in the Sanford.
"Shanghai Bobby got started very early," Pletcher said. "We found over the years that a lot of times, our most successful horses are the first ones ready. I suppose it just speaks to their natural ability and talent level, their professionalism, and those kinds of things that ultimately make a lot of them good."
Napravnik hopes to go three-for-three aboard Shanghai Bobby, who is drawn in post 6 in the seven-horse field. As the 122-pound highweight, Shanghai Bobby will spot his rivals four pounds.
His uncoupled stablemate, Drum Roll, will break from the outer post with new rider Velazquez. The Pennsylvania-bred was sent down to Monmouth for his premiere and duly obliged, fending off pace pressure before opening up by daylight.
A $300,000 OBS March two-year-old in training purchase by Coolmore, Drum Roll is from the first crop of Majestic Warrior, who scored his signature win in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa in 2007. Majestic Warrior stands at Coolmore's North American arm, Ashford Stud, so Drum Roll could hand his owners a double boost.
Rick Violette would have had a major threat in Carried Interest. Unfortunately, that sharp debut winner has been sidelined, but Violette has an able deputy in Spurious Precision. By High Cotton, the same sire as last year's Hopeful hero Currency Swap, Spurious Precision dismissed a good-looking group of Saratoga maidens on July 21 while blitzing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03 2/5.
"It's a little bit quick back, not ideal, but he's doing very well," Violette said. "Some of the horses in the race have beaten nice horses, and others, we don't know what we've beaten. We have an opportunity to run here, and if the stars align, look ahead to a race like the Champagne [Grade 1 on October 6 at Belmont Park]. Plans are great, but you've got to get to Square One, and Square One is Sunday."
Alan Garcia will reunite with Spurious Precision, the 5-2 second choice, from post 3.
Tony Dutrow, who won the Schuylerville with So Many Ways off a Parx maiden win, employs the same strategy here with Southern Honor. Unlike his filly stablemate, Southern Honor finished second in his premiere. The son of Yes It's True moved forward substantially next time out to wire the field by 7 3/4 lengths, setting a new 4 1/2-furlong track record in :50.75. Dominguez has the riding assignment aboard the colt with a pedigree connection to the Spa: his second dam is Shine Again, two-time heroine of the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap.
Dan the Tin Man sallies forth from Woodbine. Fourth in his debut in the Victoria Stakes, the Ricky Griffith trainee came back to crush maidens. Although he has raced only on Polytrack so far, Dan the Tin Man has trained sharply on Woodbine's dirt training track, and has Castellano in his corner.
The two remaining entrants are taking a bigger class hike than the other maiden winners. In Harm's Way makes his first start outside of New York-bred maiden company, and He's So Fine ventures outside of the maiden claiming ranks.