Green Light Go headlines Closing Day's G1 Runhappy Hopeful
by Ryan Martin
Stronach Stables' Green Light Go headlines a competitive field of seven assembled for Closing Day's 115th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Runhappy Hopeful over the main track at Saratoga Race Course on Monday.
The seven-furlong event is the first Grade 1 on the calendar for juvenile males and has been a resume builder for eventual Champion 2-year-olds including Shanghai Bobby and Favorite Trick. Prominent sires including Gulch, City Zip, Afleet Alex, First Samurai, and Triple Crown winner Affirmed are also past Hopeful winners.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens will saddle Green Light Go for the Hopeful, which he enters off of two stylish victories. He was a 3 1/4-length winner in his career debut at Belmont Park, where he led at every point of call and defeated subsequent turf stakes winner Another Miracle. He built on that effort next out in the Grade 3 Saratoga Special, where he sat just off the pace and glided away by 3 3/4 lengths.
"He ran well the first time but he had to lead all the way and didn't have a whole lot of experience. He broke real sharp and it was good to see the horse that ran second came back and ran real big," Jerkens said. "I felt really good after seeing that. Key races really mean something, and that horse came back and won a stake on the turf. He's not beating up on slouches. We're going into it feeling well."
Jerkens originally was going to train the Hard Spun homebred up to the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne on October 5 at Belmont Park, but audibled upon observing how well the horse has trained over the surface at Saratoga. His most recent work over the main track was on Tuesday, where he drilled through a half-mile in 47 seconds flat, the fastest of 19 recorded works at the distance.
"He likes it up here. It looks like he thrived up here and it's not a big jump up in distance, but it's got him going up in distance in little increments," Jerkens said. "I like that. I think its good for 2-year-olds as opposed to going from one extreme to the other. He's a big strong colt so if any horse can do it, it's him. Running once a month with gradual distance increases should be good."
Jockey Junior Alvarado, who has piloted Green Light Go in both of his starts, retains the mount from post 3.
The only other graded stakes winner in the field is By Your Side, who won the Grade 3 Sanford in July for trainer Eddie Kenneally. Owned by Anderson Stables, the bay son of freshman sire Constitution displayed a late kick to win his career debut on June 14 at Churchill Downs by a nose before winning the Sanford.
Bred in Kentucky by Columbiana Farm, By Your Side was purchased from last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $240,000. He is out of the Dixie Union broodmare Revered.
Two-time Saratoga leading rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be aboard from post 5.
Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen is no stranger to juvenile success at the Spa but is still in search of his first Hopeful win. He will have three chances for his first Hopeful victory when he saddles a trio of contenders.
All three of Asmussen's Hopeful aspirants were maiden winners earlier in the meet. Breaking from the rail is Shoplifted, who won first out on July 27 by 4 1/2 lengths garnering an 83 Beyer Speed Figure. The Into Mischief bay was an $800,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-year-olds in Training Sale and is out of the Yes It's True broodmare Shopit.
Shoplifted was bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, Carrie Brogden and Craig Brogden and will receive the riding services of Joel Rosario.
Asmussen will also be represented by Basin, who was second to fellow Hopeful contender By Your Side in his career debut. He found the winner's circle at second asking over the main track at the Spa on July 26 where he recorded an 84 Beyer for the 1 1/4-length triumph.
Basin was bred in Kentucky by Cottonwood Stables and was a $150,000 acquisition from last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He is by freshman stallion Liam's Map and is out of the Johannesburg broodmare Appenzell, who also produced multiple stakes-winning millionaire Rise Up.
Basin will leave from post 7 under two-time Saratoga leading rider Jose Ortiz, who seeks his third win in the Hopeful.
The last of the Asmussen threesome is Zayat Stables and Gary Barber's Gozilla, who broke his maiden first out by 4 1/2 lengths as the heavy favorite. The chestnut Flatter colt is out of the Stormy Atlantic broodmare Atlantic Dream, who is a full-sister to multiple turf graded stakes winner Icy Atlantic.
Gozilla was purchased for $150,000 from last October's Fasig-Tipton Fall Yearling Sale and was bred in Kentucky by Indian Creek and Wildwood Farm.
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will pilot Gozilla from post 4.
American Butterfly [post 2, Luis Saez] and Inside Risk [post 6, Dylan Davis] complete the field.
The Runhappy Hopeful is slated as Race 10 on Monday's 11-race card, which also features the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch in Race 10. First post is 12:30 p.m.