Labor Day Weekend 2-Year-Olds: The Best is Yet to Come – Super Screener
Super Screener

Labor Day Weekend 2-Year-Olds: The Best is Yet to Come

Robert Simmons/Eclipse Sportswire

Both Saratoga and Del Mar traditionally conclude their respective meets with their top stakes race for 2 year-old males… the G1 Hopeful and the G1 Del Mar Futurity, respectively. With 8 months to go, how productive have these two races been when it comes to the Kentucky Derby? It’s a mixed bag…

Can you name the last horse that won the Hopeful and then went on to take down the Kentucky Derby? Well, it happened 43 years ago when Affirmed won the 1976 Hopeful, and then not only won the 1977 Kentucky Derby but also captured the Triple Crown (and, it took another 38 years before American Pharoah broke the Triple Crown drought).

What about a Hopeful winner conquering one of the other Triple Crown races? Over the past 20 years the only winner of the Hopeful Stakes that went on to win a Triple Crown race was Afleet Alex, who won both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2005 (and suffered a terrible trip in the Kentucky Derby).

As we can safely conclude, the G1 Hopeful Stakes has been quite unproductive as of late and we seriously doubt the winner of this year’s renewal of the Hopeful is going to alter that trend. The winner, Basin, ran a solid race on the sloppy Saratoga surface, for sure, and it was a far better performance than the usually more productive G1 Del Mar Futurity outcome, but Basin isn’t going to break the Hopeful/Kentucky Derby drought.

This colt is certainly worth watching as he is laying out energy the right way and will be a factor when it comes to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.  However, what might be the best 2 year-old stabled at Saratoga this summer, Green Light Go, was set to go in this race until sloppy conditions had connections opting to take a pass, and trainer Jimmy Jerkins wanted even more time for his prized colt. A mistake? Probably not… but we’ll need to wait another month to see if Green Light Go will move forward off those two very impressive career starts. 

Heading over to the other coast, how has the G1 Del Mar Futurity fared over the years when it comes to producing Kentucky Derby winners? Quite a different story when compared to the lack of productivity we noted regarding the G1 Hopeful Stakes. In fact, Nyquist and Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah recently achieved the Futurity/Kentucky Derby feat in consecutive years. Prior to that, you had horses like Silver Charm and Gato Del Sol pull off the Futurity/Derby double. In addition, the G1 Del Mar Futurity has accounted for numerous Kentucky Derby Starters over the years.

Let’s face it… as was the case with the Hopeful, we didn’t get to see what may have been the most gifted 2 year-old on the Del Mar grounds run in the Futurity… Baffert-trained Eight Rings took a sharp left turn (which happens far too often at Del Mar due to the gap that can spook horses when going the 7-furlong distance) and collided with Storm the Court, which caused both riders to be knocked off their mounts. Fortunately, both horses and jockeys came back in good order.

Not taking away anything from the race winner, Nucky, but not even his own connections think of this as a Derby horse. He ran super fast early on a glib Del Mar surface, pressing the pace and breaking away as the clear winner. But with Eight Rings and Storm the Court out of the race, Nucky beat nothing, and he ran a very slow last furlong. In fact, two days prior, Bob Baffert’s top 2 year-old filly, Bast, won the G1 Del Mar Debutante going away and did so running two full seconds faster than what Nucky posted going the same 7 panels.

In that Del Mar Debutante, the Super Screener picked the Trifecta cold and the top long shot pick, Lazy Daisy, finished 4th at 41-1. The Vulnerable Favorite pick to fade, Leucothea, finished last at odds of 4-1.

It comes as no surprise then that when it comes to horses worthy of Kentucky Derby consideration, as it is with most years…clearly, the best is yet to come. 

Woodward (G1)

In the Woodward, our strong conviction, Top Win Pick, Vino Rosso, was a late scratch… so that moved Yoshida and Preservationist to the top spot.  The only reason we stated for not having Preservationist in the #1 spot initially was that we had to leave open the possibility that he would wash out again as he did in the Whitney.

#5 – Preservationist – PRESSER – Lost his race before it began in the Whitney, as he was clearly on edge and very washy as a result. Avoid again if he strikes that appearance here. Was expected to regress some after the huge lifetime top in the race prior and did so but only finished just over a length behind #3 Vino Rosso after doing all the dirty work on the front end. Presses here, and if is composed, runs a big one here.

Well, he was indeed composed and ran back to a peak performance, holding off both Bal Harbour and Yoshida for the hard-fought win.

Bal Harbour ran a solid performance all things considered, as he did go off at attractive odds of 16-1 and was recommended to use on the bottom of Trifectas and Superfectas if the price was generous.

Yoshida was a bit of a disappointment as everything set up well for him and while he just missed 2nd place, he really had no excuse for not hitting the Exacta. Fully cranked or needed even more pace pressure? Either way, we need to see more from this horse.

With the close of the Del Mar and Saratoga meets the spotlight turns squarely on the horseplayer-friendly Kentucky Downs meet featuring gigantic fields loaded with high-value potential. You can count on the Super Screener to have it all covered for you.

Until this coming weekend, Go Fast and Win!