Repole Stable's Overdriven justified the hype surrounding his debut victory with a convincing display in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Sanford at Saratoga. By dusting Grade 3 Bashford Manor runner-up Power World and Grade 2 Futurity winner Jack's in the Deck, the Todd Pletcher pupil vaulted to pro tem leadership of the juvenile division in the East.
Overdriven turned heads with his 3 1/2-length maiden romp on July 1 at Belmont Park, where the Tale of the Cat colt sizzled five furlongs in :56 2/5. As a result, the brawny bay was hammered into 1-5 favoritism for the Sanford, and he didn't give his fans any cause for concern in the historic test.
"We felt like we had the best horse going in," Pletcher said, "but when you're in situations like this, everyone knows what can happen in Saratoga and the history of upsets, so you don't take anything for granted. I'm just happy he broke cleanly and put himself in a good spot."
With John Velazquez back in the saddle, Overdriven forced the early pace set by Black Rhino through an opening quarter in :22 2/5 on the fast track. The odds-on favorite ranged up alongside the leader on the far turn and took command through a half in :45 3/5.
The rest was a Sunday stroll down the lane as Overdriven skipped clear, getting five furlongs in :57 4/5 en route to completing six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. The four-length winner returned $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10.
"He's still a little green," Velazquez said. "When he gets to the lead, he gets to waiting a little bit. At Belmont, he had competition all the way to the eighth-pole and kind of drew away with the other horse. Here he took the lead a little bit early and he started waiting. He was running well enough; I didn't want to hit him. I just showed the whip to keep his mind on running."
Power World, who had raced in third much of the way, stayed on best of the others to finish a promising second by three lengths. Jack's in the Deck got up from last for third, a half-length ahead of Black Rhino. At long intervals came Moonrush and Tarpy's Goal. Bless the Soldier was scratched by the veterinarian after acting up in the gate, while Maan was withdrawn earlier.
Now a perfect two-for-two, Overdriven has bankrolled $126,000. The impressive start to his career has drawn the inevitable comparisons to stablemate Uncle Mo, last year's champion two-year-old colt.
"Uncle Mo a year ago was a maiden," Pletcher said. "He was a month away from debuting, but we knew he was a pretty special colt at this point. (Overdriven) is two-for-two now and he's obviously a very mature two-year-old, physically and mentally, precocious and gifted with some natural talent."
"Here we go again, man," owner Mike Repole enthused. "Pretty nice horse last year (Uncle Mo), and pretty nice horse so far this year. There's only one Uncle Mo. And there's one Overdriven.
"This is the best place in the country. Saratoga is the Fenway Park of horse racing. So much prestige.
"Last year, Uncle Mo was the best two-year-old in the country and as of July 24, Overdriven is the best two-year-old in the country."
Bred by Mount Joy Stables in Kentucky, Overdriven first brought $200,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. He went to his current connections for $350,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.
Overdriven was produced by the winning French Deputy mare Air France, making him a half-brother to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Smooth Air. Hero of the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Hutcheson and Ohio Derby, Smooth Air also finished runner-up in such events as the Florida Derby and Metropolitan Handicap. Air France's youngest progeny are an unnamed yearling colt by Curlin and a 2011 colt by Pulpit.
Overdriven's second dam, multiple stakes victress Twin Propeller, is herself a half-sister to Grade 2 queen Penny's Reshoot as well as stakes winners and graded stakes producers Daimon and Hope Rises. This is the family of Grade 2 scorers Justwhistledixie and Chace City, and at a further remove, reigning Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Shared Account.
Pletcher has mapped out an itinerary for Overdriven.
"I'm sure the Hopeful (Grade 1 at seven furlongs on September 5) is the logical next goal," the trainer said. "It's good spacing, and we ran him back a little quicker than we normally would after his maiden win because we wanted to get this race in and we'd get better spacing to, hopefully, the Hopeful.
"Hopefully, the Champagne (Grade 1 at one mile at Belmont Park on October 8) after that would be what we're thinking long term."