by TERESA GENARO
If Saratoga is all about two-year-olds, then this year’s Saratoga meet might be all about Steve Asmussen, as he sent out a juvenile winner for the second straight day, this time a homebred colt by Tapit.
Asmussen’s filly Lyrical Lady put the trainer in the win column on opening day with an eye-catching open-lengths win in a maiden special weight. On Saturday, he was back in the winner’s circle with Nitrous, bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds and owned by them in partnership with Stonestreet Stables.
Breaking from post 2 under Ricardo Santana Jr.—who also rode Lyrical Lady—the gray colt jumped to the lead, unlike his first start at Churchill, in which he came from off the pace to fall a neck short. (The winner that day, Strike Silver, came back to finish a close second in the Sanford [G3] later on Saturday’s card.) Maintaining a lead through the early going of the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track, Nitrous was challenged briefly by Puttheglassdown coming into the stretch, but the 4-5 favorite brushed him away with a burst of speed to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
Nitrous is the first foal from the City Zip mare Speedinthruthecity, a multiple Grade 3-placed stakes winner also trained by Asmussen.
Asmussen acknowledged that Nitrous fits in the same category as his Friday filly winner: talented, well-meant, and headed for Saratoga’s graded stakes. He had particular praise for the colt’s poise during a delay at the gate.
While two-year-old races generally get a lot of attention at Saratoga, this particular race brought out fans and photographers in equal measure to see Southern Phantom, the bay Bodemeister colt with the striking white face. Running for owners Southern Equine Stables and Calumet Farm and trainer Eric Guillot, Southern Phantom finished fifth.
Earlier in the card, trainer Todd Pletcher, whose name is almost a byword for two-year-old Saratoga winners, sent out his first winner of the meet when Seanow made the most of additional distance and switch to the turf to break his maiden in 1 1/16-mile contest over a firm inner turf course.
The Tiznow colt made his first start last month on the dirt at Gulfstream Park, finishing a well-beaten fifth. Pletcher shipped him north earlier this month, took him off the dirt, stretched him out, and got a 1 3/4-length win.
Despite breaking from post 10, John Velazquez got Seanow right to the front and right to the hedge, maintaining a slim advantage over longshot High Sheriff, who was determined not to let Seanow get away. After High Sheriff threw in the towel, Digital Footprint, One Mission, and Noble Spirit all made a run at the pacesetter, but Seanow gave them the slip to get to the winner’s circle.
Out of the A.P. Indy mare Neptuna, a descendant of Miesque, Seanow is bred and owned by Wertheimer et Frère.