ELMONT, N.Y. - WinStar Farm and China Horse Club's Theory proved he was back in full force Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, posting a 3 ½-length victory in the 126th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Futurity for 2-year-olds at six furlongs.
Settling in second early under Javier Castellano, Theory tracked an early pace set by Moves Like Ali, who led the field of five through an opening quarter-mile in 22.62 seconds and the half in 45.35. The Todd Pletcher-trained Theory drew alongside the leader in the middle of the turn and shook clear at the eighth pole to secure his first stakes victory.
"He's a classy horse, you can put him wherever you want," Castellano said. "He broke well out of the gate and just took it from there. I loved the way he did it, he does everything with such class. He was composed in the post parade. I think you can stretch him out, he'll appreciate going long."
A $335,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase from the freshman crop of Gemologist, the Kentucky-bred colt turned heads with his 5 ½-length maiden-breaking victory on July 30 at Saratoga Race Course. Theory was under strong consideration for the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 5 when a subpar breeze on August 20 prompted a turnout at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., to recover from a foot bruise before returning to Pletcher's Belmont base in mid-September.
Making his first start in 11 weeks, the overwhelming 1-5 favorite returned $2.70 for a $2 win wager. Theory completed six furlongs in 1:09.91 before galloping out well ahead of his rivals.
"Anytime you're a prohibitive favorite like that you always want things to go well," said Pletcher. "[He] broke alertly, put himself in a good spot and Javier gave him a little chance to get his feet underneath him and looked like when he called him he finished up strongly. He was pretty clear, flicked his ears and galloped out strongly.
"It was everything we hoped it could be," he continued. "He's a very good-minded horse. He's got a great disposition and he's not head strong in any way. I anticipated he would rate fine and I wasn't surprised that he did. The way he ran today [and] the way he finished, I think, gives us a lot of options."
Pletcher noted that one of the options for Theory could the Grade 1, $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 5 at Santa Anita Park.
"Today with the way he ran, the way he galloped out and came back, I think we at least have to sit down and have that discussion," Pletcher said.
Star Empire closed late for second, a length ahead of Moves Like Ali. The Walk and Reckling completed the order of finish.