Making just his third career start in Saturday’s $600,000 Saratoga Derby (G1), undefeated Program Trading handled the class hike, and displayed terrific battling qualities, to prevail in his stakes debut. The Chad Brown trainee set the pace, got overtaken by the experienced Webslinger in the stretch, but fought back to extend his record to 3-for-3.
“This horse (Program Trading) really dug in and showed a lot of heart,” Brown said. “It’s only his third start moving right into a major race like this. We always thought he had the ability.
“He probably had the advantage of fresh legs so to speak, because the horses that were behind him have had long seasons and such, but he did have some inexperience he overcame. A lot of credit goes to the horse. Sometimes these horses aren’t made to be two-year-olds, and they get their careers started later. If you’re patient, you’re often rewarded.”
A $356,711 Tattersalls October yearling acquisition on behalf of Klaravich Stables, Program Trading was unraced until May 14. The British-bred bolted up by five lengths in a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Monmouth Park, then cleared his entry-level allowance condition over the same distance at Belmont Park June 25.
The Saratoga Derby represented a step up in trip to 1 3/16 miles, as well as in competition. Topping the field was Belmont Derby (G1) winner Far Bridge, the 2.05-1 favorite. But Program Trading’s upwardly mobile profile, and connections, made him the slight second choice at 3.60-1 in an open-looking renewal.
Another variable was the yielding ground on Saratoga’s Mellon course. Program Trading figured to adapt as a son of Lope de Vega, and jockey Flavien Prat used his tactical speed wisely from post 2.
“Me and Flavien talked about if the one (Mondego) was going to leave out of there or not,” Brown revealed. “He was the only other speed horse. We were just a little faster on paper. We decided to break, stay off the rail, and just see if we could nurse him along.”
Beating Mondego to the lead, Program Trading set up shop through an opening quarter in :23.74. British shipper Lion of War rushed up to stalk in tandem with Mondego, but neither applied any pressure as Program Trading was comfortably alone through a half in :49.59. At the three-quarter mark in 1:14.41, Webslinger was moving up to engage the leader.
Tackling Program Trading as they rounded the turn for home, Webslinger put his head in front and appeared poised to assert in midstretch. But Program Trading had more up his sleeve, coming again to head his rival in 1:56.63.
Far Bridge closed for third, another 1 1/2 lengths back. Battle of Normandy churned on in fourth. Aspen Grove, the Belmont Oaks (G1) winner who was taking on males, was a non-threatening fifth. While the ground probably didn’t help, Aspen Grove was already out of sorts in the gate, having to be backed out and reloaded. Irish invader The Franchise, Mondego, and Lion of War concluded the order under the wire. Truly Quality was scratched.
“They both ran their guts out,” Webslinger’s trainer, Mark Casse, summed up. “Sometimes you win them, sometimes you lose them. I’m proud of him. He tried. He tries every time.”
“He was passed in early stretch,” Brown said of Program Trading. “For an inexperienced horse to come back on the inside, he showed a ton of heart, and I think it might be even a little softer down on the inside where he was. He really overcame a lot in the stretch to show his heart and ability.”
Prat felt that Program Trading hadn’t exhausted his reserves.
“He showed good speed and got us into the race,” the winning rider said. “I was traveling well all the way around. He was very happy on the lead, and that horse on the outside made a move and got the jump on me, and I couldn’t get him to go as much as I wanted to, but once he got the target, he really was game.
“He fought back. He never had any issues with the ground. Some European breeding definitely helps. I felt like he had one more gear, and it was a matter of whether that horse could fight back. Fortunately, he didn’t. The way he ran today, I think he could stay farther.”
Aside from boosting his bankroll to $415,250, Program Trading earned a spot in the prestigious Cox Plate (G1), Australia’s weight-for-age championship. That’s probably too far afield for Brown, who wouldn’t be drawn to confirming the Oct. 7 Jockey Club Derby (G3) over 1 3/8 miles at Aqueduct.
“We’re just going to enjoy this win here. He’s only ran three times, and he’s three,” the horseman said. “I’m hoping to have this horse for many years down the road.”
When the same connections won the 2020 Saratoga Derby with Domestic Spending, his next start came in the Hollywood Derby (G1). If the pattern holds, Program Trading would point for that Del Mar feature later in the fall.
Program Trading is out of the Oasis Dream mare Dreamlike, a full sister to Fashion Fund, who was runner-up in the 2014 Riskaverse S. here. Dreamlike is also a half-sister to the stamina-laden Silk Sari, winner of the Park Hill (G2) and second in the British Champions Fillies & Mares (G1) in 2014.
Program Trading’s third dam is the brilliant classic winner Gossamer, herself a full sister to 1994 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) hero Barathea. The siblings turned a Curragh classic double between them, with Barathea taking the 1993 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and Gossamer scoring in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) in 2002.
Both Barathea and Gossamer were trained by Luca Cumani, whose Fittocks Stud bred Program Trading in partnership with Arrow Farm & Stud in Great Britain.