SARATOGA SPRINGS – The hype has been deafening. The next Kentucky Derby winner has arrived according to those who have been watching a certain colt by Arch out of a Seeking The Gold mare in the mornings. I stopped by the historic race course on Thursday afternoon to see what all the fuss was about and came away impressed by the physical presence of the dark bay colt named Archwarrior.
The anticipation level of a first time 2-year-old starter has never reached the level that Archwarrior has provided over the past few weeks. After scratching out of his first two entries, he ran his first race on Thursday afternoon and won an $85K Maiden Special Weight, covering six furlongs in 1:10.07.
The heralded maiden winner was bet down to 1-4 on the tote board and paid $2.50 to win, $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show. His 3 ¼-length victory was rather routine in nature, making his move at the top of the stretch and loping home under a hand ride by jockey Johnny Velazquez after taking control of the race as he hit the eighth pole.
The big strapping colt should get even better for meet leading trainer Todd Pletcher who shrugged off the hype and explained his thoughts on why this horse was getting more than his share of attention. “The horse has trained well. I think there are a couple of guys who work for the [Daily Racing] Form that are clocking him in the mornings and maybe talking on the internet and giving out information on horses that are working out in the mornings. I don’t know,” said Pletcher.
Pletcher wasn’t nervous about his young colt’s first race. “Well, it wasn’t exactly like the Kentucky Derby, but generally when you lead a first-time starter over here, you’re the one that kind of knows what to expect. Not everyone else maybe expects the same thing. But yeah, we were hoping he’d run as he’d been training. I mean, we’ve brought a lot of first-time starters over here over the years, but I’ve never had so many questions beforehand.”
Johnny V was asked to compare him to the highly regarded Uncle Mo in his post race comments. “No, he’s not as fast as Uncle Mo. He is much bigger and heavier than Uncle Mo. Uncle Mo was smaller and faster. Archwarrior is more the type of horse who will really get good when the distances get longer. He’s not going to win by 10 or 12 lengths, he’s not going to open up on the field. He’s just kind of steady. He should run all day long,” said the Hall of Fame jockey.
He still has a lot of work to do before he dons the garland of roses in May and hopefully we’ll get to see how he progresses stretching out in the future. Pletcher was close to the vest when asked what’s up next for Archwarrior. We’ll play it by ear and see how he comes out of it.”
The Saratoga meeting will come to a conclusion on Labor Day, highlighted by the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (Grade 2) on Monday afternoon for 2-year-olds. The holiday weekend will feature seven graded stakes races, including three Grade 1 races (Woodward, Forego and Spinaway).
The Grade 1 Woodward features last year’s Travers winner Stay Thirsty (5-1), who is winless in four attempts since winning last season’s Midsummer Derby. The morning line favorite, Mucho Macho Man (8-5) has never won a Grade 1 race, nor has trainer Kathy Ritvo won a Grade 1. He is coming off a win in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in July. Cigar Mile champion To Honor and Serve (2-1) has only missed the board once in six attempts at the 9-furlong distance of the Woodward.
The 7-furlong Forego will be run on Saturday on the Woodward undercard and will be another duel between morning line favorite Shackleford (2-1) and the Nick Zito-trained Jackson Bend (7-2). James Marvin winner at the same distance, Pacific Ocean (4-1) will look to sweep the Spa sprint stakes for older horses.
Sunday’s card features the Grade 1 Spinaway for 2-year-old fillies and the Grade 3 Saranac, a 1 1/8-mile race on the turf.
Archwarrior Photo Credit: NYRA, Adam Coglianese