Hopeful Stakes Concludes Saratoga Meet Monday   

Future Breeders’ Cup Stars to Watch with Odds and Analysis of Hopeful Stakes

The final races of the 40-day meet are Monday, Sept. 4 at Saratoga. Following a rainy and sloppy day at the Spa Sunday, racing fans can enjoy a mostly sunny and unseasonably warm Labor Day as temperatures reach nearly 80 degrees. The track should be running fast, along with the 2-year-old horses in the 7 furlong Hopeful Stakes. The Grade I race with a $350,000 purse drew a field of 8, and all of them look capable of winning in a competitive and wide open Hopeful.

Optimism and Derby dreams begin as the fall season arrives, and some of the leading trainers in the business prepare their ponies and 2-year-olds babies to stretch out for the big closing stakes race at the Spa. That includes D. Wayne Lucas, who turned 82 on Saturday and has won the Hopeful Stakes seven time. Lukas sends a talented Tiznow colt Sporting Chance (8-1) in pursuit of more Derby Dreams with Luis Saez in the irons. Sporting Chance gave way late and finished 2nd in his debut, and then came back to break his maiden while beating Givemeaminit (10-1) and Joel Rosario by more than 2 lengths after building a 6 length lead in the stretch.

Trainer Todd Pletcher saddles a pair of horses in the Hopeful including the favorite Mojovation (2-1) breaking from the rail. Mojo posted an 86 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut which is tied for the best in this field. He’s had a series of solid 4 furlong works since that debut win July 29 over this track and should break strong and be running on or near the lead with John Velazquez aboard. National Flag (9-2) is so physically impressive, and he was the most expensive yearling purchase in this field at $600,000.  Jockey Jose Ortiz will ride, and he was aboard the winner Practical Joke in the 2016 Hopeful. Rosario then rode him to a 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Practical Joke will run in this year’s Breeders’ Cup, and some of these super sired babies will be one’s to watch for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.

Half the Hopeful field is sired by Winstar Star Stallions, and along with Sporting Chance and National Flag, long shot Psychoanalyze (15-1), who finished 3rd in the Sanford, and Oskar Blues (10-1) will shoot for victory at a bigger price. Oskar Blues pulled a major surprise at 33-1 odds here Aug. 12 running head-to-head along the lead and then winning his debut at 7 furlongs by a nose. Oskar Blues showed tons of heart in the stretch while posting his 86 Beyer, and Dylan Davis rides for trainer Kenny McPeek shooting for back-to-back upsets.

Firenze Fire (7-2) is 2-for-2 after winning the 6 furlong Sanford (G3) at Saratoga July 22. He was 12-1 that day, and held safe in the stretch over Free Drop Billy (4-1), the favorite. Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Firenze Fire again for trainer Jason Servis, who has had a breakthrough season and wins at nearly 30% this year. Free Drop Billy showed solid progression off his debut win at Churchill Downs, and and trainer Dale Romans knows his Union Rags colt is also bred for distance. A pair of bullet works including an impressive 5 furlong last week says he’s ready to run and stretch out with a strong closing kick. Free Drop Billy makes the grade as a winning pick on top and included in all exotic wagers.

A wide open Hopeful with many competitive colts and no weak links. Two-year-olds can be more difficult to handicap for many, as it’s tougher to anticipate and determine the rapid improvement that so many of these colts make. Much of the race odds is determined by results and to a degree the pedigree while performance can change quickly.

In an effort to find value, we’ll include Oskar Blues in our horizontal wagers and exotic bets, knowing that he not only showed great grit to win at this 7 furlong distance, but trainer Kenny McPeek fits a formulator factor with 2-year-old debut winners at a 50% rate with their second start on dirt.

The 7 furlong Hopeful Stakes is Race 9 at Saratoga on Monday, Sept. 4 with post time at 5:05 ET.

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