El Deal and Mr. Crow lit up the Saratoga main track a collective three times over the summer. On Saturday, the two speedballs will vie for an automatic Breeders’ Cup entry in the $350,000 Vosburgh (G1), a six-furlong “Win & You’re In” Challenge race for the Sprint (G1).
A blowout winner of his last three starts since joining the Jorge Navarro barn, El Deal exits his finest performance yet, an eight-length romp in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1). Meanwhile, the three-year-old Mr. Crow faces a class test in his stakes debut, but does come off back-to-back maiden and allowance tallies by a combined margin of 17 3/4 lengths.
“It’s not something you normally do with a horse that’s lightly raced at this stage of his career but he’s run exceptionally well all three times,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.
“The horse trains very well so we figured there’s not much else for him to do in terms of allowance races and we feel like he’s shown enough talent to step up and try a big one.
Another sophomore taking aim at the Vosburgh is Takaful, who crushed allowance foes by more than five lengths early in the Saratoga meet, then came back to run a fine second to Practical Joke in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1).
Stallwalkin’ Dude, second by a length to Joking in the 2016 Vosburgh, has won two overnight stakes this year but was only eighth of 10 in the Forego (G1) last out. Green Gratto won the Carter H. (G1) and Toboggan (G3) earlier this year, but has gone unplaced in five other starts this term and is just one-for-16 at Belmont.
The field is rounded out by New York-bred mainstays Celtic Chaos and Weekend Hideaway. The latter finished third in last season’s Vosburgh.
Fresh off a dominating win in the Alabama (G1), Elate figures to be an overwhelming favorite to beat six older rivals in the $400,000 Beldame (G1) over 1 1/8 miles.
A head second to Abel Tasman in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) two back, Elate rebounded to win the 1 1/4-mile Alabama at Saratoga by 5 1/2 lengths over It Tiz Well, subsequent winner of the Cotillion (G1) over Abel Tasman last weekend.
Grade 3 winners Eskenformoney and Verve’s Tale stand out among the older contenders in this soft renewal.