Ralis, a California-based colt with an unassuming record, put several of New York’s leading juvenile males to shame Monday when authoritatively taking the $350,000 Hopeful (G1), highlight of the closing day card at Saratoga.
Rating in third as 2-1 favorite Magna Light set an honest pace of :22.79 and :45.46, Ralis bid for the lead in upper stretch, gained it approaching the eighth pole and drew off handsomely to win by 5 3/4 lengths while giving jockey Javier Castellano yet another top-level win at the meet.
Owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, Ralis completed seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.30 and paid $15.80 as the fourth choice in a field of seven.
Magna Light, controversially disqualified from first in the Sanford (G2) earlier in the meet, was second best here by three lengths over Uncle Vinny, who was elevated to the Sanford winner’s circle.
A California-bred son of Square Eddie, Ralis had gone unplaced in two prior attempts against open company. Fourth in his debut against open maidens at Santa Anita on May 22, the bay returned to defeat state-bred foes by 4 1/2 lengths over the same track.
A dull fifth as the favorite in the $85,000 Summer Juvenile Championship at Los Alamitos next out, Ralis again went back to the state-bred ranks for his most recent start, finishing 3 1/4 lengths second to Mrazek in the $100,000 Graduation at Del Mar.
Californians wound up capturing two of Saratoga’s three major stakes for juvenile males on the main track. The Keith Desormeaux-trained Exaggerator took the Saratoga Special (G2) on August 16.
Ralis, who is out of a mare by the long-winded Ten Most Wanted, has the pedigree to go farther. His sire did his best work on synthetics, taking the 2008 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and running second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Ralis undoubtedly benefited from a perfect pace setup here, and it will be interesting to see if he can back up this win at a later date under potentially less-favorable circumstances.
The Rudy Rodriguez-trained Magna Light, despite a pedigree that suggests he might get farther, looks more like a sprinter at this point and is unlikely to be effective if stretched out later this year. Uncle Vinny has now failed to cross the wire in three straight attempts and is probably not trainer Todd Pletcher’s very best juvenile prospect.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Sallisaw, a debut winner on August 15, was a troubled fourth and deserves a shot at redemption. The remainder of the field, consisting of maidens and a minor stakes winner, were outclassed.
(Ralis photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)