Sophomores carrying strong form forward

Jul 31, 2018 John Mucciolo

The race for the Eclipse Award for champion three-year-old is in the books with Triple Crown sensation Justify having locked up the hardware with his six-for-six record. 

But that doesn’t take anything away from the foes Justify defeated during the spring and last weekend offered a trio of stakes races on the East Coast featuring some of his vanquished rivals. They did not disappoint.

2017 Champion juvenile GOOD MAGIC made good in his initial outing since finishing a close fourth in the Preakness, readily taking over in early stretch and posting a convincing score in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park. Jose Ortiz was up on the athletic son of Curlin.

Conditioned by Chad Brown, the Kentucky Derby runner-up is superb colt who always fires. Good Magic promises to make a lot of noise the rest of the season. 

Preakness runner-up BRAVAZO was clearly second-best at Monmouth. Awesome Again colt finished six clear of third and has really progressed this season for D. Wayne Lukas. I have learned to appreciate Bravazo. 

On Saturday, TENFOLD was best in the Jim Dandy (G2) despite wandering all around the Saratoga course inside the final furlong. Steve Asmussen trainee, who was third in the Preakness, is full of talent and could be scary when he puts it all together. 

Tenfold was green late in the Preakness and I thought he would have been second at the very least if he stayed focused at Pimlico. 

Also in the Jim Dandy was Wood Memorial (G2) victor VINO ROSSO, another who didn’t run a straight-forward race. The Todd Pletcher trainee dropped too far back on the back side to make an impact. Or so it seemed. 

Curlin colt found his best gear late and was flying through the wire, finishing a close third. He galloped out tons the best, too. Vino Rosso is of Grade-1 quality and is eligible to contend in the August 25 Travers (G1) with expected improvement. 

On Friday, Belmont Stakes third HOFBURG earned a second lifetime tally with a convincing score in the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga. Juddmonte homebred didn’t beat an accomplished field but he did register a 105 BRIS Speed number for his work. 

Tapit colt has now posted Speed figures of 104, 105 and 106 in three of his last four races for Bill Mott. 

It’s been my opinion since the spring that this is a fantastic group of three-year-olds. And we haven’t even seen impressive Belmont runner-up Gronkowski return yet. Nor did I mention sensational fillies Monnomoy Girl or Wonder Gadot, the top-two finishers of the Kentucky Oaks (G1) who have each thrived since. 

I am really looking forward to the Travers and the rest of this season. And I am anxious to see who will turn out to be the second-best sophomore of 2018.

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