Saratoga’s Hopeful Stakes (G1) has only produced two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winners in its rich 42-year history, but it has served as an important stallion-making race on many occasions. With that in mind, a talented field of eight juveniles has assembled for this year’s edition of the race.
Leading the field is Zayat Stables LLC’s Mojovation, trained by Todd Pletcher. A $330,000 Keeneland September purchase last year, the son of Quality Road was very well thought of going into his debut, and was sent off as the 4-5 favorite. After going the first half in :46.81, Mojovation held off multiple challenges to win the six furlong event in a final time of 1:11.14. The third place finisher in that race, Bourbon Resolution came back to break his maiden on Saturday.
Also running for Todd Pletcher is WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. and SF Racing LLC’s National Flag. The son of Speightstown cost $600,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Sale, and the word was out that he could run, as he was sent off at 3-5 in his debut going 5 ½ furlongs at Belmont Park. After dueling through a brisk half-mile in :45.06, National Flag faded to seventh that day, beaten 7 ¼ lengths. He made his second start on the Whitney Stakes (G1) undercard, again dueling early, this time through a half mile in :44.99, but unlike his debut, National Flag turned back all challengers in his second start, winning by 1 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:10.35 for six furlongs.
It should be noted that John Velazquez was the regular rider for both Pletcher colts and he has elected to ride Mojovation. Jose Ortiz picks up the mount on National Flag.
The lone graded stakes winner in the field is Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire, who is trained by Jason Servis. The homebred son of Poseidon’s Warrior was a winner on debut at Monmouth going five furlongs in :58.37 in June. With the betting public unsure of what he faced in that race, the colt went off at 12-1 in the Sanford Stakes (G3) at Saratoga in his second start. He proved that debut win was no fluke, winning the six-furlong Sanford by a length over fellow Hopeful entrant Free Drop Billy in a final time of 1:11.50.
One should never ignore D. Wayne Lukas at Saratoga, especially in the Hopeful, a race the veteran trainer has won seven times. In the 2017 edition, Lukas has Robert Baker and William Mack’s Sporting Chance entered in the race. These same connections won this event back in 2013 with another son of Tiznow in Strong Mandate. Like Strong Madate, Sporting Chance lost his debut, finishing second to Dak Attack, who has since won the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes, at Churchill Downs. In his first start at Saratoga, Sporting Chance won a deep maiden event by 2 ¼ lengths in gate-to-wire fashion, going the 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.72.
Rounding out the field is the graded stakes-placed pair of Free Drop Billy and Psychoanalyze, maiden winner Oskar Blues and the maiden Givemeaminit.
Carded as the ninth race on the program, approximate post time for the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes is 5:05 pm ET.