By Gene Kershner
It’s not your run of the mill field that will be going to the gate in Saturday’s $400,000 Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
I can’t remember the last time a maiden winner was the morning line favorite in a Grade 1 race that also included a Grade 1 winner.
How often can you consider boxing three Pletcher horses in the same race and have a decent shot at hitting the trifecta?
This is exactly what the NYRA is serving up cold on Saturday afternoon when six of the seven talented 2-year-olds will stretch out to the mile distance for the first time in their careers around one turn at Big Sandy. The Champagne is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, so the stakes will be high late Saturday afternoon.
The morning line favorite is the highly touted Archwarrior (5-2) who comes off a maiden win during the last week of the Saratoga meet for trainer Todd Pletcher. I highlighted his debut win in a Friday Post Time blog entry in August after returning from a surgical strike down the Thruway to the Spa to see him. He is a large imposing colt by Arch out of a Seeking the Gold mare with the pedigree to handle the longer distances. He didn’t dominate during his maiden victory, and appears that he will be more impressive as the distances get longer.
Pletcher isn’t shy about letting this colt dip his toes in deeper waters. “He’s a big strong colt who has shown us a lot of ability in the mornings, and I thought he backed it up with a good solid effort in his debut,” said Pletcher. “I liked the way he finished the race and the way he galloped out, and he’s trained well since then. It’s an ambitious move, but a move we think that fits his schedule based off what we’ve seen.”
Ironically, Archwarrior is slightly favored over Pletcher’s Grade 1 winning colt Shanghai Bobby (3-1). Unlike Archwarrior, this colt has been tested, has a graded victory and a non-graded stake under his belt as he will be looking for his fourth consecutive win. Pletcher will look to continue his magic with 2-year olds after winning both graded stakes at Belmont last weekend. Rosie Napravnik will ride the undefeated son of Harlan’s Holiday.
Based on his effort in the Hopeful at seven furlongs, he doesn’t think the one-turn mile will be an issue for Shanghai Bobby. “Even though he was close to the pace, he was able to let horses go in front of him and seemed to settle pretty well. The fact he successfully got seven furlongs and wasn’t desperate doing it was a good indication that a one-turn mile should be well within his scope.”
Pletcher will also enter Micromanage (5-1) for Repole Stables, owners of 2011 Derby trail horses, Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. The Medaglia d’Oro colt won his debut impressively at seven furlongs by 5 lengths and Joel Rosario will be in the irons. It’s not inconceivable that the three Pletcher colts could fill the trifecta.
Other challengers include the second (Fortify, 6-1) and third (Bern Identity, 15-1) place finishers from the Hopeful and two other horses who will be invading a NYRA track for the first time. Goldencents (3-1) sports a big speed figure in his debut on the polytrack at Del Mar and Chief Havoc (15-1) ships in from over the pond to run on dirt for the first time for Jeremy Noseda.
This could be a classic case of the “other Pletcher” horse sneaking in and winning the race. Micromanage has been working well and should savor the additional distance. Shanghai Bobby will be there on class alone and I will favor Archwarrior at the longer distances when his long loping strides will be more of a factor.
Don’t be surprised if Goldencents runs a big one also, West Coast trainer Doug O’Neill wouldn’t ship him in if he didn’t think he had a solid shot at winning and sipping the Champagne.
Post Time Outlook – 1- Micromanage; 2 – Shanghai Bobby; 3 – Goldencents