Can the undefeated Dugout stay a mile? That appears to be the key question in assessing the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds Saturday at Belmont Park.
Apparently, there are plenty of trainers who feel the answer is no, since a field of 16 juveniles, including two also-eligibles, has been entered to face Dugout, who has won all three career starts. That win streak includes two stakes tallies – the 6 1/2-furlong Funny Cide at Saratoga and the six-furlong New York Breeders’ Futurity last month at Finger Lakes.
But the man who should know best, trainer Larry Rivelli, firmly believes Dugout will have no problem handling a mile.
“I’m pretty confident he can get the distance,” said Rivelli, who also bred Dugout in partnership with owner Richard Ravin.
“None of the horses I’ve had out of that mare have won over a mile. But I think he’s in a little different category of horse than they were. And one turn obviously makes a little bit of a difference, too.”
Rivelli said he considered running Dugout in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint before opting to keep him with statebreds one more time.
“We bred and own him, too, which means it’s a triple-dip for us if he wins,” Rivelli said. “He drew well, in post 6, and from there I think he’ll be in front or he can sit off Bankit if he decides he wants to go, just like we did in the Funny Cide. Either way, I think it’s his [Dugout’s] race to lose.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher admitted he, for one, is hoping the added distance will be an advantage when he sends out La Fuerza and Just Right in the Sleepy Hollow.
La Fuerza has futilely chased Dugout on two previous occasions, when finishing fifth as the 6-5 favorite in the Funny Cide and taking third in the New York Breeders’ Futurity. Just Right is coming off a very disappointing last-place finish making his stakes debut in the B.F. Bongard following a well-graded maiden tally at seven furlongs in his Saratoga finale.
“I always thought La Fuerza would appreciate more distance and I’m looking forward to our first opportunity to stretch him out beyond 6 1/2 furlongs,” Pletcher said.
“Just Right didn’t fire at all last time, and he seems to be a horse who is a little more comfortable on the lead, so that’s our goal with him in here. It looks like a very competitive race with a much bigger field than I’d expected. We’ll need a favorable pace setup, and hopefully the added distance will equalize things between us and Dugout this time around.”
Bankit was beaten a nose by Dugout after a race-long pace duel in the Funny Cide, but like Just Right, Bankit also regressed in the Bongard on Sept. 21.
Poppy’s Ice, second best behind runaway winner Frosted Ice in the Bongard, is one of three other stakes-placed New York-breds in the lineup, along with Bustin to be Loved and Bustin Hoffman, both of whom are poorly drawn in posts 13 and 14 respectively.
Large field for Maid of the Mist
The Sleepy Hollow’s filly counterpart, the $250,000 Maid of the Mist, also lured a large and extremely well-matched field of 12 led by Cartwheelin Lulu, a wire-to-wire winner of both previous starts, including the seven-furlong Joseph A Gimma Stakes at Belmont on Sept.19. She will be joined in the gate by stablemate L.A. Page, who rallied from far back to win her maiden at first asking for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.
“Talking to Johnny [Velazquez], I thought she would stretch off that last race, it seemed like she would go farther,” Englehart said of Cartwheelin Lulu. “And I’m not sure she’s a need-the-lead type. As for L.A. Page, you don’t usually see 2-year-olds make that kind of run first time out, which is the main reason I decided to run her, too. It’s ambitious, but at the same time we could have something special there with her.”
Cartwheelin Lulu could face pace pressure in the one-mile Maid of the Mist with Saide Lady, Time Warp, and Elegant Zip. Time Warp is the only member of the prospective starting lineup to have already gone a mile, finishing fifth after vying for command to midstretch of an optional-claiming race at Keeneland just 10 days ago.
A contested pace should put a smile on the face of trainer Linda Rice, who entered a trio of fillies – She’s Trouble, Surge of Pride, and the maiden Galadriel’s Light, all of whom would appear to do their best running at the end.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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