WITH ANTICIPATION STAKEs | PURSE: $200,000 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Balance the Books uncorked a sustained last-to-first move in Thursday's Grade 2, $200,000 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga, denying the pacesetter Joha in the final strides to break his maiden. A fast-finishing second in his debut over the same 1 1/16-mile trip on the Mellon Turf, the Lemon Drop Kid colt got up by a head in a final time of 1:42 1/5 on the firm course.
In the process, Balance the Books handed trainer Chad Brown a juvenile turf stakes double at the Spa. On Wednesday, stablemate Watsdachances landed the P.G. Johnson Stakes in her American premiere.
Balance the Books drew in from the also-eligible list, following the withdrawals of Sonofasamurai, Special Skills and The Bs and Es. He was to break on the far outside of the field (excluding the main-track-onlies), which after the gate scratch of Private Tutor, now meant post 9.
Dropping back early for new rider Julien Leparoux, Balance the Books found cover at the rear of the field. There was no shortage of pace contestants, but Joha soon took control of affairs through a quarter in :23 3/5. For most of the way, the front runner appeared to be sitting pretty while carving out splits of :47 3/5 and 1:12.
Joha, the winner of Woodbine's Colin Stakes in his last start, was still striding out strongly well into the stretch of this two-turn debut. As he opened up by three lengths in midstretch, a battle was shaping up for the minor awards behind him -- or so it looked at the time.
Leparoux had angled Balance the Books out widest of all for untrammeled running room. After brushing with a rival, Balance the Books got back on an even keel and leveled off. Rapidly gaining on Joha, who got the mile in 1:36, the second-time starter had all of the momentum inside the final sixteenth. Joha could not resist his late surge, and yielded in the shadow of the post.
Balance the Books, the third choice at 4-1, rewarded his backers with mutuels of $10.80, $6 and $3.40.
"Down the backside I saw him winding up for a big run," Brown said. "I knew it would be close, but he got a hard bump from someone leaving the quarter-pole, and I thought that would probably cost us the race. In the shadow of the wire, my hope rekindled a bit and we got there. A strong finish by Julien, and I'm grateful for that. Terrific horse."
"He relaxed and made one run and galloped out," Leparoux said. "Ramon [Dominguez, aboard second-place finisher Joha] obviously got a little jump on us, but I knew I could get him, and [Balance the Books] ran great today."
Joha crossed the wire a clear second by 1 3/4 lengths. Next came 2-1 favorite Charming Kitten, who bested Notacatbutallama, his stablemate from the Todd Pletcher barn, by 1 1/4 lengths. He's So Fine checked in fifth, trailed by Hightail, the filly Almost an Angel, Craving Carats and Bernie the Jet. In addition to the aforementioned scratches were the main-track-only entrants Lawn Man, Sweet Shirley Mae, and the winner's entrymate, Read the Proposal.
Balance the Books boosted his bankroll to $137,000 from a 2-1-1-0 line. The bay colt didn't have the smoothest of introductions in his August 4 premiere at the Spa, where he found himself 15 lengths off the pace after a bump at the start. He rallied furiously but fell a half-length shy of catching Craving Carats, who wired the field. The tables were turned in the With Anticipation, with Craving Carats having some trouble.
"Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence had the confidence to go in this race," Brown said of running him in this spot as a maiden. "They give me some nice horses to train and I'm thrilled for them. They're having a terrific meet as owners, and I'm happy to get a Grade 2 for them.
"He really trained well up here at Saratoga for his debut, and we loved him the first day we ran him. Of course, when you run a maiden in a graded stakes, you're not overly confident, but when we got the call that we drew in this morning, we talked on the phone and it wasn't much of a discussion. We were running."
Now Balance the Books will chart a course to the Breeders' Cup.
"I think that's the plan," Brown said. "He'll have one prep before then; I'm not sure [where]. We'll probably take a look at the Pilgrim [Grade 3 on October 7 at Belmont Park] or the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland [Grade 1 on Polytrack October 6]. The three of us will sit down and make a decision."
Bred by Scott C. Heider and Knowles Bloodstock Inc. in Kentucky, Balance the Books brought $37,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, but his current connections went to $160,000 to purchase him as a two-year-old in training at Keeneland April.
Balance the Books is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Kreisleriana, and his second dam is Irish and German champion Kooyanga. Her other descendants include multiple Louisiana-bred stakes scorer Reyina and classic-placed Princess Sinead, the third-place finisher in this season's Group 1 Irish One Thousand Guineas. Further back in the family, one finds South African champion Kundalini, ancestress of Grade 2 queen Diamond Diva; Group 3 winners Lime Gardens and Experience; and Roland Gardens, hero of the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas in 1978.