Eight juveniles reach for the stars in G1 Hopeful

December 10, 2019

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A field of eight promising 2-year-old colts, ranging from an undefeated stakes winner to a second-time out maiden, will file into the starting gate on Monday for the 111th edition of the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful, the final stakes race of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.

Stretching out to seven furlongs is the Henry Collazo-trained Bullet Gone Astray, a nine-length winner of the six-furlong Mountaineer Juvenile on August 1. Prior to that, the Gone Astray colt came from off the pace to score by 1 ½ lengths in his first outing on June 28 at Gulfstream Park.

"He's coming here because every time he runs he comes out of the race better than went he went in - bigger, stronger, and anxious to do more," said Collazo. "We don't know how good he is and this is one way of finding out. And, there's no place I'd rather be than Saratoga."

Luca Panici will ride Bullet Gone Astray, 15-1 on the morning line, from post position 8.

Trainer Tony Dutrow, who won the Grade 1 Alabama earlier in the meet, goes in search of a second Grade 1 score with Alex and Joanne Lieblong's Set the Trappe, second to Economic Model in his debut on August 8.

"My client feels good enough about his horse that he wants to try this race," said Dutrow of Set the Trappe, a $300,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Sales last August. "I was very happy with him. We really don't put a great deal into our first-time starters. We want them to go out and experience their first race. But by no means do we have our horses ready to run a brilliant race the first time they run, and he did.

"He was good in the paddock, so good in the post parade and in the gate - he broke alertly, took the heat early, shook it off, opened up and got caught late," he added. "So I was very, very impressed with the horse. He came out of the race great and has trained brilliantly since. I couldn't say enough about him and every aspect of him training so well. If he hadn't, I would have had something to say to my client."

Ricardo Santana, Jr. will ride the son of Trappe Shot, the 8-1 program choice, from post position 4.

Narrowly favored at 5-2 is the Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Vinny, who was moved up to first from second in the Grade 3 Sanford on July 25.

The son of Uncle Mo, who carries the colors of Starlight Racing, previously was seventh as the favorite in the Tremont on June 5 at Belmont Park in his second start, having broken his maiden on May 21.

"I think he's steadily improving," said Pletcher. "He's getting a little more professional each race and he's trained well since the Sanford. We're optimistic."

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be aboard Uncle Vinny when he leaves from post position 7.

Also returning from the Sanford is Michael Dubb's Magna Light, who was the victim of the disqualification after crossing the finish line in front by three-quarters of a length. The Magna Graduate colt, trained by Rudy Rodriguez, won his debut by 4 ½ lengths on June 28 at Belmont. Jose Ortiz will ride Magna Light, 3-1 on the morning line, from the rail.

Cheyenne Stables' Sallisaw was a first-out winner for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on August 15, coming from just off the pace for a 1 ¾-length victory at 5 ½ furlongs.

"He broke [widest in a field of seven], was out in the clear and ran very well to win," said McLaughlin of Sallisaw, who fetched $100,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sales. "In this race, he's No. 2 of eight, and we'll see how it goes with the inside post. He does everything right. He's very professional. The way he ran the first race, we thought 'What are the options now?' and this was the option."

Junior Alvarado will be aboard Sallisaw, 5-1 on the morning line.

Completing the field are recent maiden winner Sticksstatelydude, 12-1; Tom's Ready, 10-1, who was fourth behind Sallisaw; and Reddam Racing's Railis, who was supplemented to the race by trainer Doug O'Neill and who sits at 4-1 on the morning line.

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