During the stretch run of the $100,000 Curlin Stakes July 28, Repole Stable's Outplay managed to showcase both how much maturing he still has to do and how much upside his connections have to look forward to.
The few erratic strides the son of Bernardini produced down the lane of the 1 1/8-mile test did little to deter from the dominant effort he was in the midst of, as the Todd Pletcher-trainee had little company to keep his interest during his 5 3/4-length win at Saratoga Race Course. Watch Video
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Outplay earned his third win in the same gate-to-wire manner he flaunted during his prior two victories. Allowed to cruise through the opening quarter-mile in :24.06 and the half-mile in :48.71, with Hemsworth as his nearest challenger, the bay colt held the lead out of the far turn and kept clear of Small Bear in the stretch. He completed distance in 1:50.59 despite running a bit green through the lane.
"I don't know that we expected a dominant performance," Pletcher said. "We felt like the horse was training very well and we felt like, on paper, we had a bit of a pace advantage. You never know what everyone else's strategy is, but we felt like we had the most natural speed and we wanted to take advantage of that.
"He got a little bit green down the lane when he was by himself. He went back to his inside lead and Johnny had to correct him, but overall I thought it was a very impressive performance."
Outplay entered the Curlin Stakes off a third-place effort in the June 10 Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park, his first step up from allowance company. His maturation process has necessitated some patience, as he took four tries to break his maiden and finally got the job done with a front-running, 8 1/2-length win going a mile at Aqueduct Racetrack April 8.
He followed that run up with a 1 1/2-length score at Parx Racing May 6, and Pletcher indicated a return trip for the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) Sept. 23 could be on the table.
"I don't know for sure. I don't want to commit to the (grade 1) Travers yet," Pletcher said. "He did have a huge win at Parx earlier in the year. The Pennsylvania Derby could make some sense, but I'll talk to (owner Mike) Repole about it. I'm sure he'd be excited to run in the Travers. We'll see how things go tomorrow and how the Travers shapes up and go from there."
Small Bear finished three-quarters of a length in front of Perfect Partnerfor second place. You're to Blame, Everybodyluvsrudy, Thirst for Victoryand Hemsworth completed the order of finish.
Sent off at 2-1 odds, Outplay paid $6.10, $3.80, and $3.20 across the board and improved his record to three wins from seven starts with $163,000 in earnings.
Bred by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Outplay is out of the Storm Cat mare Miss Kate and was purchased by Repole Stable for $275,000 from the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale.