New York's two big Grade 1 races for juveniles are this Saturday–the Frizette for fillies and Champagne for colts–and Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand in both of these “baby” contests. That's no surprise. Pletcher is thoroughly dominating the 2010 American Graded Stakes, with 24 individual horses taking 38 AGS races thus far. It may be something of a surprise, however, that he's won only two of the 22 AGS races for juveniles–the Grade 1 Spinaway with R Heat Lightning and Grade 2 Adirondack with Position Limit.
Pletcher will have four of the nine fillies in the Frizette: R Heat Lightning, Sorority Stakes runner-up Maple Forest, maiden winner Tap for Luck and third-place Spinaway finisher Valiant Passion. He's got two of the seven in the Champagne: the much hyped Uncle Mo, an Indian Charlie colt who won a Saratoga maiden sprint by 14 1/4-lengths, and Stay Thirsty, second to Boys At Tosconova in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the Spa.
It's doubtful any trainer has the depth of 2-year-old firepower that the Pletcher operation possesses. This is the time of year for them to start stepping up as the Breeders' Cup approaches and we begin to sort out the leading contenders for next year's 3-year-old classics.
Besides Pletcher, Rick Dutrow is the only other trainer to have two 2-year-old AGS winners in his barn. Boys At Tosconova is his big gun. Le Mi Geaux won the Grade 3 Schuylerville. Neither is racing this weekend, though Dutrow will have Mountain Town, a colt he claimed out of a winning maiden race for $75,000 from Marylou Whitney and trainer Nick Zito, going in the Champagne.
Of the 19 2-year-old AGS winners, there are two repeat winners: the injured and retired Kantharos, who was trained by Steve Asmussen, and three-time AGS winner JP's Gusto, who narrowly lost a fourth win for trainer David Hofmans when defeated by Jaycito in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood Park.
The division championships, thus, are wide open, and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies will likely crown the those two divisional Eclipse Award winners.
One last note on the 2-year-old AGS winners: of the 19, 12 were bred in Kentucky, but five were foaled in Florida, which has long had the reputation for producing fast and precocious young horses. One AGS winner came from Virginia and one from Illinois.
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