Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle a pair of strong contenders in Wit and Power Agenda in the 117th renewal of the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for juveniles at Saratoga Race Course on Monday, September 6.
Monday's 12-race card, which closes out the 40-day Spa summer meet, will also feature the Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch, a 1 1/16-mile turf handicap for 3-year-olds and up.
||Ricardo Santana, Jr.
||Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Wit (Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Gainesway Stable), by 2016 Hopeful-winner Practical Joke and out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Numero d'Oro, is perfect through two starts. Wit posted a six-length maiden win sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs at Belmont in June ahead of an eight-length score in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 17 here that garnered a co-field high 90 Beyer Speed Figure.
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Power Agenda, by Nyquist and out of the Afleet Alex mare Dream Dance, prevailed by a nose in a gutsy gate-to-wire debut win sprinting six furlongs on August 14 at the Spa.
Pletcher, who has won the Hopeful with Circular Quay , Shanghai Bobby  and Competitive Edge , said both entrants should appreciate the additional furlong.
"Wit has the advantage of having a couple of starts. He deserves the chance to step up. I think the way Wit finished up going six furlongs you would think seven would be no problem," Pletcher said. "Power Agenda was game in his only start and he should be able to handle the distance."
Wit, a $575,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, will exit post 6 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., while Power Agenda, a $120,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale acquisition, will exit post 10 under Manny Franco.
LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable's High Oak, a maiden winner in June at Belmont, earned a 90 Beyer for his 4 1/4-length score last out on August 14 in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. The Gormley bay settled off the pace in the 6 1/2-furlong main-track sprint under returning rider Junior Alvarado before drawing off to a sharp score over Hopeful-rival Gunite.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the $70,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase will exit post 8.
Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred Gunite boasts a record of 4-1-2-1, including a prominent maiden score on June 26 sprinting six-furlongs two starts back at Churchill Downs.
Last out, in the Saratoga Special, Gunite battled on the lead with Doctor Jeff through sharp splits of 21.82 seconds and 44.93 before giving way to the eventual winner.
Gunite is trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who has won the last two editions of the Hopeful with Basin  and Jackie's Warrior .
The dark bay son of Gun Runner will look to provide the leading freshman sire his first Grade 1-winner from post 3 under returning rider Ricardo Santana, Jr.
Breeze Easy's Headline Report, a Gormley ridgling trained by Wesley Ward, was a confident debut winner sprinting 4 1/2-furlongs in April at Keeneland. Last out, the $550,000 OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale purchase settled for second behind Wit in the Sanford.
Headline Report has breezed four times at Keeneland since the Sanford, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00 flat on August 12 followed by a six-furlong work in 1:12 flat on August 23.
"In the Sanford he broke sharp and he was right there, but Wit kind of took over turning for home and we were just soundly beaten by a much better horse on the day," Ward said. "My guy is moving forward, though. I just think this is the right race over a surface that he's shown he ran well on in the Sanford. We brought him back to his home track in Kentucky and he had a beautiful six-furlong work here the other day.
"I know we're up against it with Todd's colt, who right now looks like the best 2-year-old in the country," added Ward. "But you can never duck a race trying to get around one horse. Things happen in races. Even though on paper Todd's colt will be certainly odds-on and we'll certainly be much higher odds than him, this race should put me where I want to be for my next race."
Ward said Headline Report will use the Hopeful as a springboard to the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Futurity on October 9 at Keeneland.
"He's a big colt. I know he's going to go two turns," Ward said.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will pilot Headline Report from post 7.
Rounding out the field are maiden winners Defend [post 2, Luis Saez], Kitodan [post 4, Chantal Sutherland], Kevin's Folly [post 9, Jose Lezcano] and Big Scully [post 11, Eric Cancel], as well as maidens Volcanic [post 1, Dylan Davis] and Street Fight [post 5, David Cohen].
The Hopeful is slated as Race 10 on Closing Day, which offers a first post of 12:35 p.m. Eastern.
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