The Labor Day Holiday ushers in the start of the 2016 fall racing schedule for up and coming juveniles and this Monday we will get our first good look at some promising two-year-olds in coast to coast action at Saratoga Race Course and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in a pair of major graded events.
The running of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Del Mar Futurity are always exciting events on the horse racing calendar signifying the early start to the 2017 Kentucky Derby trail. Each race is expected to have a strong field of contenders and I have broken things down to come up with my top exacta play for each race.
Hopeful Stakes- Saratoga Race Course
The Hopeful is a Grade 1 stakes race for two-year-old thoroughbreds with a total prize purse of $350,000. It will be contested on the dirt track at Saratoga over a distance of seven furlongs.
Right now there is a full field of 10 horses listed as probable for Monday's main event at Saratoga. Many of these horses have had limited experience so early in their racing career, but one two-year-old that is already turning heads in the horse racing world is Classic Empire. This Kentucky-bred colt will be making his third career start after winning a Maiden Special Weight race and the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs this summer.
Trained by Mark Casse, he is already ranked No. 63 by Horse Racing Nation with a lofty rating of 8.03. A pedigree of Pioneerof the Nile, this is definitely a horse to watch in the coming months.
Another Kentucky-bred two-year-old that has already been able to make a name for himself is trainer Eddie Kenneally's Bitumen. He is the only other horse in the field for the Hopeful that is ranked by HRN (No. 152) and his current rating stands at 7.67. The main reason I think he will be right in the mix on Monday was his impressive victory in this year's Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on July 23 over a distance of six furlongs.
He also won in an initial race as juvenile with a first-place finish over six furlongs in a Maiden Special Weight race on June 30 at Churchill.
Del Mar Futurity- Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
This year's Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity has a total prize purse of $300,000. This stakes race for two-year-old thoroughbreds will also be contested on dirt over a distance of seven furlongs.
The field for Monday's Del Mar Futurity is still coming together but it should feature one of the top-ranked two-year-old thoroughbreds in the nation. Trainer Bob Baffert is looking for big things from Klimt in his juvenile season and so am I as my top betting pick to win this race. This Kentucky-bred colt as already climbed to No. 32 at HRN with a solid 8.34 rating on the strength of a big win at Del Mar in this year's Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13 over a distance of 6 ½ furlongs. He bested both Big League and Thirst for life in that race.
Klimt's racing career did get off to a shaky start with a fourth-place run in a Maiden Special Weight race at Santa Anita Park in late June, but he quickly showed his potential with a victory in another Maiden Special Weight race just a few weeks later.
My second choice for Monday's Del Mar Futurity is trainer Keith Desormeaux's Straight Fire. He comes into this race ranked No. 114 by HRN with a rating of 7.77. This two-year-old Kentucky-bred colt will be making his major stakes racing debut after finishing in the money in a pair of Maiden Special Weight races at Del Mar this summer. After finishing second at a distance of five furlongs, he appeared to like the longer length in a victory at 6 ½ furlongs.
This horse is a pedigree of Tricky Indy and his progeny can be traced all the way back to Seattle Slew so you already know that he has the makings of a champion thoroughbred.