ELMONT, N.Y. – The last two words of the comment in the Equibase chart for the eighth race at Gulfstream Park on Aug. 25 summed up perfectly what Trophy Chaser had just done.
Trophy Chaser rolled to a 15 3/4-length victory in the slop, running six furlongs in 1:09.50 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. It was the highest figure earned by a juvenile before Game Winner earned a 97 winning last Saturday’s Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita.
Saturday, Trophy Chaser will try to validate that performance – and speed figure – when he takes on a seemingly talented cast of 2-year-olds in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Champagne, a one-turn mile race, offers a fees-paid berth into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2. The Champagne, which drew a field of 10, anchors an 11-race Saturday program that begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern and includes the Grade 1 Beldame, Grade 2 Hill Prince, and the listed Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational.
Trophy Chaser, owned and trained by Juan Carlos Avila, got beat a neck at Gulfstream Park in his debut. Avila said the 4 1/2 furlongs was too short for his son of Twirling Candy and noted that he got carried out on the turn by another horse.
In his second start, Trophy Chaser stalked another horse before taking over on the middle of the turn, and splashed his way to an impressive victory.
“I thought he was going to win, but not that easy,” Avila said Thursday through an interpreter.
The competition gets tougher in the Champagne, which is headed by Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Call Paul and maiden winners from the barns of Chad Brown, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Shug McGaughey.
“It’s a tough race, but I have faith in my horse,” Avila said.
Trainer Jason Servis won last year’s Champagne with Firenze Fire. Saturday, he sends out Call Paul, who beat Mind Control in a maiden race at Delaware Park and then came back to win the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, overcoming a bump with Tight Ten in upper stretch.
Though both of Call Paul’s victories have come on the front end, Servis has worked the horse behind horses often, expecting that he may have to come from off the pace one day. Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Call Paul on Saturday.
“I was thinking in the Special we were going to be laying second or third,” Servis said. “He can do whatever. I’ll leave it up to Irad.”
Endorsed, Code of Honor, and Complexity were among the most impressive debut-winning colts seen at Saratoga, and they return in the Champagne.
Aurelius Maximus rolled to a 7 3/4-length maiden win in the slop going the Champagne distance of a mile here on Sept. 9.
Achilles Warrior, Listing, Successful Zip, and Casa Creed complete the field.
Trophy Chaser, by Twirling Candy
◗ Dominated maidens in the slop at Gulfstream, a race from which the runner-up came back to win.
◗ Avila said horse had “good works on normal track.”
◗ Junior Alvarado, who flew to Florida to work the colt two weeks ago, has the call.
Call Paul, by Friesan Fire
◗ Ran away from Mind Control at Delaware Park in his debut. Mind Control came back to win a maiden race and the Grade 1 Hopeful.
◗ Recent works have been done sitting behind two workmates and passing them in the stretch.
Endorsed, by Medaglia d’Oro
◗ Made up two lengths in the final sixteenth of a six-furlong maiden race to run down highly regarded Ahead of Plan.
“We really liked our horse; he’s the best colt we have,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “We feel like going further is going to be better.”
◗ Will have to overcome the rail.
Aurelius Maximus, by Pioneerof the Nile
◗ Was a dominant, albeit perfect-trip winner of a one-mile maiden race here on Sept. 9.
“He’s come back and trained really well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He’s a horse that continues to improve.”
Code of Honor, by Noble Mission
◗ Showed good speed and still had something left for the finish in six-furlong maiden win on Aug. 18.
◗ Worked a very fast half-mile here on Sept. 23 and then the rider overcompensated when going a slow five furlongs on Sunday, though he galloped out strong.
Complexity, by Maclean’s Music
◗ Broke slowly but quickly recovered to win a six-furlong maiden race by 4 1/4-lengths on closing day at Saratoga.
“For him distance is a question mark, but he’s training really well,” Brown said.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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