Bern Identity won the Sanford last year before going on to place third in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga later in the meet (Photos courtesy Eclipse Sportswire).
A six-furlong test for promising juveniles, the Sanford Stakes was inaugurated in 1913 as the Sanford Memorial Stakes. It was named for Stephen Sanford and his son John who had raced their horses at the Spa in the late nineteenth century. The Sanford is appropriately one of the first graded stakes races of the Saratoga meeting. The historic race has often laid the foundation for young racehorses.
Though the recent renewals of the Sanford have had little impact on the juvenile division or the Triple Crown trail, the race has had been of great significance in the past. Regret, the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby, won the second running of the Sanford, and just a few years later in 1919, Man O’ War would suffer his first defeat to the coincidently-named Upset. In 1972, Secretariat won the race and Affirmed would add his name to this prestigious roster in 1977. On opening weekend of Saratoga’s 150th meeting, it would be fitting if another future great would break the recent slump to win the Sanford, and go on to accomplish impressive feats.
The likely post-time favorite, Debt Ceiling, is the most experienced horse in the field with three starts. He began his undefeated career with a 4 ½ length triumph on March 30th at Laurel Park. After a 2 ½ length win against stakes company at Pimlico, he won the Bashford Manor Stakes on a sealed track. He took the lead around the turn and opened up lengths on the field down the stretch, but eventual runner-up Hollywood Talent shortened the margin to 2 ¾ lengths.
DEBT CEILING IS THE MOST ACCOMPLISHED COLT IN THIS FIELD
Hollywood Talent for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey should also go off at respectable odds as the only other horse with more than one start. He broke his maiden at first asking during Keeneland’s spring meet. As the favorite, he established the pace and drew off to win the 4 ½ furlong contest by 3 ½ lengths in 51.25. As the second choice in the Bashford Manor, he stalked the pace and challenged in the stretch. He seemed to falter as he pursued Debt Ceiling, but rebounded to end on a solid note.
One could anticipate Wired Bryan to be the clear pacesetter in this year’s Sanford. He enters this race off one start about a month ago. He set a blistering tempo with fractions of 21.96 for the opening quarter mile, and 44.43 for the half mile. Wired Bryan completed the five furlong contest in 56.64, 7 ¼ lengths superior.
All in Blue gives Starlight Racing hope that they might own another top juvenile. He shouldn’t be too far off the lead in the Sanford. In his lone start on the 4th of July, he led the way for most of the race. Into the stretch, he had a six length advantage over the six others, and drew away to win the five furlong event by 6 ¼ lengths.
Southern Blessing enters the Sanford with over a month’s rest after winning first time out at Churchill Downs. In the five furlong contest, he ran in third for most of the race and made a bid from four paths wide to win by a length over Pontos. Coming off a dead-heat win in Friday’s Schuylerville Stakes for juvenile fillies on Brazen Persuasion, Rosie Napravnik seems to have a solid chance to get her second consecutive win in the Sanford aboard the son of Dixie Union.
Like over half the Sanford field, Jake’s Magic Hat broke his maiden at Belmont Park. The son of Tiz Wonderful went off as the co-favorite in his five furlong maiden. After a bumpy start, he settled off the pace three paths wide. Jake’s Magic Hat challenged the pacemakers into the stretch and gradually made enough headway to win by 2 ¼ lengths.
Post time for the Sanford Stakes is 5:20 PM EST on July 21 and will be aired on TVG.