May 25, 2024

Pletcher pair top contenders in eight-horse Hopeful

Mojovation proved much the best in his July 29 debut (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photo

It’s the biggest race of the meet for 2-year-olds and among the most prestigious. And Monday’s 113th edition of the $350,000 Hopeful (G1) has drawn an exciting cast of eight looking to make their mark in the closing-day feature at Saratoga.

Todd Pletcher, who enters the final weekend in a neck-to-neck battle with Chad Brown for leading trainer, will seek his fourth victory in the 7-furlong Hopeful with a pair of well-regarded runners, Mojovation and National Flag.

Mojovation, a $330,000 son of Quality Road, showed good speed recording a two-length debut score on July 29 and registered a field-best 95 BRIS Speed rating. John Velazquez retains the mount on the Zayat Stables colorbearer.

National Flag graduated at second asking for WinStar Farm and China Horse Racing Club, rallying to win going away by 1 ¼ lengths over a salty group of rivals on August 5. A $600,000 yearling purchase, the Speightstown colt gains the services of leading rider Jose Ortiz after losing Velazquez to his stablemate.

Firenze Fire will receive backing after improving to 2-for-2 with a one-length triumph in the Sanford (G3) on the opening weekend. A Florida-bred son of Posiedon’s Warrior, the bay colt is trained by Jason Servis and keeps Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle.

Four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas believes he could have a good one in Sporting Chance, who displayed high speed earlier in the meet posting a 2 ¼-length in his second start. The Tiznow colt cost $575,000 at auction and shows a recent half-mile bullet work. Luis Saez rides.

“I feel good. I feel like my horse is a very, very solid horse,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “But it is a contentious field. At this stage of my career, I am not so naïve to think I can overpower them in a Grade 1 at Saratoga. On the other hand, we have grandiose ideas that we have a pretty good horse.”

Free Drop Billy recorded a fast-closing second after breaking tardily in the Sanford and trainer Dale Romans believes the $200,000 Union Rags colt could receive the proper set-up in his second stakes attempt. Robby Albarado has the call.

“I like our horse,” Romans said. “I think we’ve got a big chance. He’s doing super, good horse, he’s coming into it right, further the better. Hopefully there’s some speed in front, and we get to run by them. He’s just training good. I always thought he was a good horse, and he’s run well in his races.”

Sanford third Psychoanalyze is back for Brian Lynch and will add a new rider in Manny Franco. Oskar Blues exits a game debut win over maiden special weight rivals on August 12 and Dylan Davis will be back up on the Kenny McPeek-trained son of Speightstown. Completing the field is Givemeamint, a rallying second to Sporting Chance in his lone start. Dallas Stewart trains the Louisiana-bred son of Star Guitar.