by Teresa Genaro
After Saturday’s juvenile races at Saratoga, the new Todd Pletcher angle might be two-year-olds that make their racing debut in Florida.
Giving the trainer his seventh win in the Sanford Stakes (G3), Sombeyay was ridden by his third jockey in as many races and made his first start in late April at Gulfstream Park, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. That performance was apparently enough to merit his coming north to join Pletcher’s Belmont string, where he finished second after stumbling at the start of a June race. Pletcher’s confidence was rewarded with the colt’s narrow victory in the Sanford.
Breaking from post 1 as the post-time favorite, Sombeyay and Javier Castellano kept close to the rail in the early going before moving into the two path heading into the far turn, then moving out another path to take aim on the pacesetting Bano Solo, who had been joined by Strike Silver.
The latter proved a determined foe, but the son of Into Mischief was able to wear him down, getting up by a neck in the final strides.
“When I asked, he took off,” Castellano said. “I loved the way he finished. He’s a good come-from-behind horse.”
Sombeyay is owned by Starlight Racing, which purchased him for $230,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The bay colt gets his name from a friend of Starlight’s Jack and Laurie Wolf, who apparently had trouble pronouncing the word “sommelier” following an evening of making use of that person’s services.
Bred in Kentucky by J.D. Stuart and Mueller Farms, Sombeyay is out of the Limehouse mare Teroda.
“I think in these early two-year-old races, experience is huge,” said Pletcher. “Having two starts compared to others with only one, I think that helped today.”
Jack Wolf dismissed any possible skepticism about the horse’s talent that might have arisen as a result of his late arrival in New York and the jockey changes.
“Todd is so comfortable training (in Florida), and the horse was fine,” he said. “There was no reason to discount him because he was in Florida and because (jockey Luis) Saez got off him.”
Starlight won the Sanford in 2015 with Uncle Vinny, who was also trained by Pletcher. Castellano won aboard Bitumen the following year.
Not unexpectedly, Pletcher said that the Hopeful (G1) on closing day at Saratoga is the logical next step for Sombeyay. Should the colt make and win that race, he would be Pletcher’s first Sanford-Hopeful winner.