Uncle Mo the overwhelming choice in Champagne
Trainer Todd Pletcher appears to have Saturday’s G1 $300,000 Champagne Stakes cornered with an explosive entry of juvenile colts consisting of Uncle Moand Stay Thirsty. The one-mile heat at Belmont Park has attracted a field of seven altogether, but the presence of Uncle Mo will likely drive the odds on the Repole Stable-owned duo below even-money.
Debuting at Saratoga on the G1 Travers undercard, Uncle Mo turned in one of the most talked about debuts of the season thus far, drawing off in the final quarter-mile to win by 14 1/4 lengths while under minimal hand urging by John Velazquez. The word was out among the betting public, who backed the bay down to 4-5 in a field of 10, and more of the same will be expected in this race that serves as a springboard to the November 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Stay Thirsty has more experience than his stablemate but looks likely to play the subservient role of stalker to the speedy Uncle Mo. Stay Thirsty finished second in his debut, graduated next out by 5 1/2 lengths, then fought on gamely to hold second in the G1 Hopeful Stakes behind Boys at Tosconova after stumbling at the break and showing speed. Javier Castellano will take over from Velazquez on the colt who is bred to stretch out successfully.
Settle For Medal trailed throughout the Hopeful after getting bumped at the break, but had shown talented when rallying to win a maiden by two lengths in his previous start. Other last-out maiden winners in the field are Brother In Arms, who needed four starts to secure his diploma, and the Nick Zito-trained Meridian Magic, who joins fellow Delaware graduate I’M Steppin’ Up in the lineup. The field is rounded out by Mountain Cat, claimed for $75,000 from his winning debut by owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Rick Dutrow.
Pletcher has four of the nine two-year-old fillies in the G1 $300,000 Frizette Stakes, also at one mile. The field looks a bit more wide open on paper, but the Eclipse Award-winning barn still figures to send out several of the favorites. Tap For Luck, an impressive debut winner at the Spa August 20, could overshadow in the wagering R Heat Lighting and Valiant Passion, the one-three finishers in the G1 Spinaway Stakes, and Sorority Stakes. runner-up Maple Forest.
Invading from California’s synthetic tracks is the Bob Baffert-trained A Z Warrior, a debut winner who later ran second in the G3 Sorrento Stakes but a dull fifth in the G1 Darley Debutante. Other notables in the Frizette are last-out maiden winners Promise Me A Cat, Joyful Victory and After Later, while Coax Liberty will add blinkers following nondescript showings in the G2 Adirondack Stakes and Spinaway.
The nominal third Grade 1 on the program, the G1 $250,000 Jamaica Handicap at nine furlongs on the inner turf, attracted 11 three-year-olds. Beau Choix, who makes his belated debut against graded foes in this spot, figures to be one of the favorites despite running second most recently in the Restoration Stakes at Monmouth Park. Prior to that, the Barclay Tagg trainee was a smart winner of the Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga and James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico.
Krypton won the G3 Hill Prince Stakes at the Belmont spring meeting, finished third to Paddy O’Prado in the G2 Virginia Derby, then missed by a head in the G2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes last out. Teaks North, the Restoration victor, will attempt to carry his form over from Monmouth, where he won two straight in August.
The first three finishers from the September 5 G3 Saranac Stakes — Lethal Combination, Turf Melody and Fantastico Roberto — will renew rivalry, while Admiral Alex, who was entered in the G1 Travers Stakes off a maiden score for trainer Leon Blusiewicz, will try grass for the first time following a last-place effort in that 1 1/4-mile test. Turf Melody is cross-entered in the G3 Hawthorne Derby.