We have reached the end of the line, Monday closing day at Saratoga. The closing day feature is the 112th running of the $350,000 Hopeful (G1) which drew an evenly matched field of seven juveniles.
The Hopeful has been won by some of the all-time greats including Secretariat, Man O’ War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, Nashua and Affirmed.
The last winner of the Hopeful that had an impact on the Triple Crown races the following spring was Afleet Alex, who won the 2004 edition and the following spring ran third in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
This year’s race is led by Bitumen, winner of the Sanford (G3) in his local debut. The Eddie Kenneally trainee is the 2-1 morning line favorite and will break from the four post with Javier Castellano aboard.
He faces two other stakes winners—Bashford Manor (G3) winner Classic Empire (5-2) and Runaway Lute (9-2), who won the New York bred Rockville Centre in his last outing.
Chad Brown has wrapped up his first trainers title, owning a 37-29 edge over 12-time leading trainer Todd Pletcher through Saturday. Brown’s runners have accumulated $4,534,385 in purses at the meeting.
It looked as if the jockey title would go right down to the wire, but Jose Ortiz picked up five wins on Saturday’s card and now has a commanding lead in the jockey standings with 61, with his brother Irad second with 52. Javier Castellano is third in the standings with 50 winners.
After three dark days Belmont Park opens for its Fall Championship Meeting on Friday.
Let’s head out to the Spa for Monday’s featured race of the day:
Saratoga Race 10 The Hopeful G1 (Post time 5:44 ET)
#4 Bitumen 2-1
#6 Classic Empire 5-2
#3 Runaway Lute 9-2
#2 Practical Joke 3-1
Analysis: Bitumen is perfect in two starts, taking the Sanford (G3) last out in his first trip over the Spa main track. The Kenneally trainee broke his maiden in his debut at Churchill Downs, pressing the early pace and drawing away to win by 6 3/4 lengths.
He was bumped coming out of the gate in the Sanford, tracked the early pace while fourth and finished up strong to get the win as the favorite. The colt came back with a bullet drill on July 23 and he looks as if the extra furlong here will suit him. He was a $280,000 Ocala purchase, by Mineshaft out of a Tale of the Cat mare that has dropped one other winner, stakes winner Meshell ($194,303).
Classic Empire is also undefeated in two starts. The Casse trainee broke his maiden in his debut in the slop at Churchill Downs, overcoming a tardy start to rally as the heavy favorite. He came back in the Bashford Manor where he ducked out and found himself near the back of the pack and came with a good late rally to win by 3/4 of a length.
He improved his Beyer Speed Figure by 32 points in the effort. The $475,000 Keeneland purchase is out of a Cat Thief mare that has dropped two other stakes winners, top earner Anytime Magic ($188,565). There is not much early speed signed up here but this guy does get an extra furlong for his late run.
Runaway Lute steps outside of the state bred ranks here after winning his first two races by a combined 20 3/4 lengths. He broke his maiden in gate to wire fashion by a dozen lengths and then overcame a stumble at the start to track the early pace and draw off to win the Rockville Centre by 8 3/4 lengths, beating a weak group. Two he beat were maidens that lost next out. A clean break and this guy figures to be the one to run down.
WIN: #4 to win at 2-1 or better.
EX: 4,6 / 2,3,4,6
TRI: 4,6 / 2,3,4,6 / 2,3,4,5,6
Michael Dempsey’s full card reports for the entire 38-day Belmont Park Fall Championship Meet (from Sept. 9 to Oct. 30) which includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations. Bonus: Purchase now and receive the remainder of the Saratoga meeting for free!