By The Numbers: Saratoga's Hopeful Stakes

August 31st, 2021

The pinnacle of Saratoga’s juvenile races is the Hopeful S. (G1), run on Labor Day. It’s been an important prize for most of its existence and has a storied history.

Here is the Hopeful By The Numbers:


The number of Hopeful winners to go on and win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The Hopeful looked like it would be a great guide for the season-ending championship when its 1984 winner, Chief’s Crown, went on to win the inaugural Juvenile. But since then, only Favorite Trick (1997) and Shanghai Bobby (2012) have completed the double.


The number of two-year-olds whose victory in the Hopeful completed Saratoga’s treble of juvenile stakes events, comprising the Sanford (G3), Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful. That quartet is Regret (1914), Campfire (1916), Dehere (1993), and City Zip (2000), though the Hopeful was run in two divisions the year City Zip completed his treble.


The margin, in lengths, that Secretariat won the Hopeful by in 1972. It was his fifth start, and his fourth win; he did so by making a wide, sweeping run from the back of the field coming around the Saratoga bend and hitting the front at the top of the stretch. Secretariat had four further juvenile starts, crossing the line first in all of them but losing the Champagne by disqualification. At the end of the year he was named Horse of the Year – a rarity for a juvenile – and he was syndicated for a record $6.08 million based on his juvenile career. Little did people know just how much more was to come at three.


The distance in furlongs that the juveniles race in the Hopeful. It hasn’t always been this way; until 1924 it was run at six furlongs, and from 1925 to 1993, the vast majority of its history, it was a 6 1/2-furlong contest. Only in 1994 was it extended to seven furlongs, when 32-1 outsider Wild Escapade outran the even-money favorite Montreal Red.


The number of Hopeful wins prepared by D. Wayne Lukas, more than any other trainer has achieved. His first victory came in 1990 with Deposit Ticket, and he followed up with Salt Lake (1991), Hennessy (1995), High Yield (1999), Yonaguska (2000, dead-heating with City Zip), Dublin (2009), Strong Mandate (2013), and Sporting Chance (2017).


The number of minutes that Man o’ War delayed the start of the Hopeful in 1919. Like a number of the progeny of his sire, Fair Play, Man o’ War wasn’t the easiest horse to handle, regularly dumping his exercise riders and giving anyone who tried to saddle him a hard time. He broke through the barrier five times on the day he suffered his only defeat, to Upset in the Sanford Memorial, and there may have been some who watched the Hopeful 17 days later wondering if the delays he was causing were a bad omen again. It turned out to be anything but, and he won very easily by six lengths.


The number of Hopeful winners to be named two-year-old male of the year. Hopeful winners were usually strong contenders for the seasonal award in the first decades of voting, but only four have won the title since 1978. Those 21 included future Hall of Famers Affirmed, Bimelech, Buckpasser, Foolish Pleasure, Man o’ War, Nashua, Native Dancer, and Needles. 


The number of years since a Hopeful winner went on to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) the following year. That horse was the Triple Crown winner Affirmed, and in both races he beat his great rival Alydar. The Hopeful-Kentucky Derby double is rarer than the Triple Crown; there have been 13 Triple Crown winners, but only eight horses that have done the Hopeful–Derby double. Three of them were Triple Crown winners – Whirlaway (1940-41), Secretariat (1972-73), and Affirmed (1977-78). The 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure won one of the two Hopeful divisions staged in 1974, while the others to complete the double are the filly Regret (1914-15), Morvich (1921-22), Middleground (1949-50), and Needles (1955-56).


The year the Hopeful was first run. It was initially staged at six furlongs and was won by Delhi. The Hopeful was Delhi’s only victory as a juvenile, but he improved at three to win the Belmont S. and Withers S., and took out the Brooklyn H. as a four-year-old. 


The prizemoney for this year’s Hopeful. For much of the past decade, the race was worth $350,000, but issues related to COVID-19 saw the prizemoney reduced to $250,000 in 2020. It’s back up to $300,000 this year.