A promising field of 11 juveniles was entered for the Toyota Saratoga Special, with the winner hoping to eventually join champions such as Favorite Trick, Dehere, and Chief's Crown, all winners of the second of three open graded stakes for 2-year-olds on the dirt at the Spa.
Heading the field as the narrow 7-2 favorite on the morning line is Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's I Spent It, an impressive maiden winner on July 2 at Belmont Park. A few months earlier, the Lieblongs spent $600,000 to purchase the son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver after the colt blazed a furlong in :09 4/5 seconds at the Fasig-Tipton Sales in Ocala, Fla.
"He showed obvious talent from the start; we saw his talent, everyone saw his talent, he breezed very fast at the sale," said trainer Tony Dutrow. "When you look at him, he's an outstanding individual. That's what led us to spend a great deal of money on him. Since then, he's continued to show talent that few possess, and I think he's a very good horse."
Dutrow said he has no exact formula for stepping a colt up into a stakes off a single race, albeit an impressive one.
"Some horse trainers are very, very good at evaluating their horses with no starts, one start, and some of us aren't so good at it," he said. "When I feel the way I feel about I Spent It, throughout my career, I've been pretty right about it, because they're very obvious. You know they're good horses. You might not know how good they are, but you know they're good. In I Spent It's case, I feel we have a very, very good horse. And when I feel this way, I have to have confidence in him because I've been right more than I've been wrong."
Javier Castellano will ride I Spent It from the rail.
Todd Pletcher, who won last year's Saratoga Special with Corfu, will be represented by Nonna's Boy, the 4-1 third choice on the morning line, and Stanford, a 12-1 outsider.
Owned by Mike Repole, Nonna's Boy debuted a 5 ½-length winner at 1-10 on June 13 at Belmont Park, then finished fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Sanford on July 19 on Opening Day at the Spa.
"I thought it was an interesting race for him," said Pletcher of the Sanford. "It showed he could sit off the pace a little bit and make a run. I think the one thing that [jockey] John [Velazquez] and I talked about after the race is that maybe we have to time our run a little better. He made a big move around the turn and flattened out a little bit. Of course, that was only his second start and I think that experience should help him."
Stanford, owned by Stonestreet Stables, enters the Saratoga Special off a single race, having won at five furlongs on June 29 at Monmouth Park.
"He trained at Belmont, we ran him at Monmouth and he ran well first time out," said Pletcher. "The horse that was second to him [Posse Dreamin] came back and won next out, so those are encouraging signs. Hopefully he keeps moving forward. That's the world we live in today. You either run from a maiden to a stake or you stay in the stall."
Velazquez will be back aboard Nonna's Boy, who drew post position 6, while Joe Bravo will ride Stanford from post position 8.
Third choice at 9-2 on the morning line is Cinco Charlie, who suffered his first defeat when he finished third in the Sanford. The precocious Indian Charlie colt broke his maiden on May 9 at Churchill Downs, and returned seven weeks later for another front-running victory, this time in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor.
Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Cinco Charlie from post position 7.
Also returning from the Sanford is Zayat Stables' Mr. Z, a tough-luck second after an eventful trip. The Malibu Moon colt was a winner first time on June 28 at Churchill Downs, winning by a half-length. Corey Lanerie will ride from post position 3.
Rounding out the field are the Bret Calhoun-trained W V Jetsetter, winner of the TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star last time out and recent maiden winners Lord Tyron, Tizcano, Rod McLeod, Cleveland Sound, and Majestic Affair.