Basin tops Steve Asmussen-trained trifecta in G1 Runhappy Hopeful
by Brian Bohl
Jackpot Farm’s Basin overtook 6-5 favorite and stablemate Gozilla at the top of the stretch from the outside and cruised to a 6 ½-length win for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who saddled each member of the trifecta in the 115th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Runhappy Hopeful on Monday, Closing Day, at Saratoga Race Course.
In the last of 76 stakes during the 40-day Saratoga meet, the Hopeful saw Gozilla led the six-horse field of juveniles through the opening quarter-mile in 22.66 seconds and the half in 45.84 on the sloppy and sealed main track as Basin, breaking from the outermost post, stayed in third position.
Out of the turn, Basin, three-wide of the leaders, made a strong move under jockey Jose Ortiz and gained separation in outkicking fellow Asmussen trainee Shoplifted. The meet-leading jockey, who clinched his third career Angel Cordero, Jr. riding title earlier in the day, registered his 60th win as Basin completed seven furlongs in 1:23.48, improving to 2-for-3 after breaking his maiden at second asking last out on July 21 at the Spa.
“I think that the day suited him with the post-position draw and the way that it came out. Those are three very talented horses and hopefully that’s the last time they’ll run against each other for a while,” Asmussen said.
Basin, bred in Kentucky by Cottonwood Stables, was a $150,000 purchased at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale. Off at 3-1, he returned $8.20 on a $2 win wager. The Liam’s Map colt improved his career earnings to $260,500.
“I’ve always been surprised with how much speed [Basin] showed,” Asmussen said. “Physically, and pedigree wise, we were excited about him running long and we were surprised at how sharp he was the first time he ran.”
Ortiz, who won the Saratoga riding title in 2015-16, recorded his third Grade 1 victory of the meet, adding to Dunbar Road in the Alabama presented by NYRA Bets and Guarana’s win in the Coaching Club American Oaks. Ortiz won the Hopeful for a third time, joining Strong Mandate in 2013 and Practical Joke in 2016.
“I saw them going at it and it was the first time going seven furlongs, so you’ve got to be a little careful,” Ortiz said. “I just took my time. I could have moved a little earlier, but I didn’t want to since they were fighting. I gave my horse a really nice breather from the half mile to the quarter pole and that made a difference. I made just one move with him.”
Shoplifted, a debut winner on July 27 at Saratoga, edged Gozilla by a neck for second.
“He ran well,” said Shoplifted jockey Joel Rosario. “Turning for home, I thought I had a little more time to get him together in a rhythm, but the winner was much the best today. He came running at the end and we were second best.”
American Butterfly, By Your Side and Inside Risk completed the order of finish. Green Light Go, the winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 10, was scratched.
The Hopeful, first run in 1903, counts Hall of Famers among its previous winners, including legends such as Peter Pan (1906), Man o’ War (1919), Nashua (1954), Buckpasser (1965), Secretariat (1972), Foolish Pleasure (1974) and Affirmed (1977).
Thoroughbred action moves to Belmont Park on Friday for the 37-day Fall Championship meet that includes 45 stakes worth $11.525 million in purse money - an increase of $1.45 million over 2018 - and will be highlighted by eight Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifiers held over two weekends.
Live racing will shift to Aqueduct Racetrack beginning on October 11 for Belmont at the Big A and continue through October 27. The traditional Aqueduct fall meet kicks into gear on Friday, November 1 and runs through December 1.