For all of its giant-killer reputation, there are certain ingredients that, when mixed together at Saratoga Race Course, more often than not produce a reliable result. The combination of a Todd Pletcher-trained juvenile showing up in the entry box for the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3) is one pundits can pretty much take to the bank.
The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner celebrated his seventh triumph in the Sanford Stakes July 21 when Starlight Racing's Sombeyaycaught Strike Silver at the wire to prevail by a neck in the six-furlong test.
Pletcher has been regularly using the Sanford as one of his favorite launching pads for young talent since he saddled More Than Ready to victory in 1999. Though the field of seven who went to post Saturday was fairly wide-open on paper, 5-2 favorite Sombeyay made sure the dominant barn kept its reign going.
Where the son of Into Mischief just missed getting up in the June 8 Tremont Stakes, his closing kick was timed to perfection by jockey Javier Castellano in the Sanford. As Bano Solo was pushed by Strike Silver through fractions of :22.26 and :45.49, Sombeyay raced along on the inside in third, with Lexitonian to his outside.
When Bano Solo started to weaken in the stretch, Strike Silver took over and, for a few strides, looked home free to the wire. Sombeyay had tipped out by that time and steadily chipped away at that rival's advantage en route to earning his second win from three starts in a final time of 1:10.35 over a fast track.
"He's not a particularly impressive work horse in the mornings. He's always run better than he breezes," Pletcher said. "I'm perfectly happy with that as long as he's happy and healthy and continues to perform in the afternoons. But he's not one that would blow you away in the mornings. I think in these early 2-year-old races, experience is huge. Having two starts compared to others with only one, I think that helped today."
Sombeyay got some early foundation this spring when he broke his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths at first asking at Gulfstream Park April 27. His runner-up effort in the Tremont was impressive in its own right as he stumbled at the start and was next to last but rallied to fall just three-quarters of a length short of Our Braintrust.
"Today, I didn't want to be too far back," Castellano said of his mount. "It worked out the way we wanted today. When I asked, he took off. I loved the way he finished. He's a good come-from-behind horse. It was very satisfying."
Strike Silver was 3 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Whiskey Echo, with Bano Solo fourth. Knicks Go, Lexitonian, and Chase Greatnesscompleted the order.
Bred in Kentucky by J. D. Stuart and Mueller Farms, Sombeyay is out of the stakes-placed Limehouse mare Teroda and was purchased by Starlight for $230,000 out of Taylor Made Sales Agency's consignment to the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Taylor Made Bloodstock Investments pinhooked the colt as a weanling from the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, where he was consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.
"I think the (grade 1, $350,000) Hopeful Stakes (Sept. 3) would be the next logical step with three starts under his belt if he was tearing the barn down," Pletcher said.