Field Pass and Our Country, both coming off maiden wins at the track and distance, head a field of eight set to line up for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 With Anticipation at Saratoga Race Course.
The 15th running of the With Anticipation for 2-year-olds scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf course serves to highlight a 10-race card that kicks off the final week of the 156th Saratoga meeting. First-race post time is 12:50 p.m.
Three Diamonds Farm's Field Pass, trained by Mike Maker, exits a professional three-quarter-length maiden special weight victory July 13 over Saratoga's inner turf course, given an ideal setup just off the pace by jockey Luis Saez, who returns to ride from the far outside post in a field of eight at co-topweight of 122 pounds.
“He's had two very good efforts,” said Maker's Saratoga-based assistant, Nolan Ramsey. “The race here at Saratoga came back to be a good race; there's a couple that have come back and won so that kind of flatters him. I know he got the best trip that day, but he's doing good. No complaints.”
In his debut, Field Pass – a son and grandson of Grade 1 Travers winners Lemon Drop Kid and Runaway Groom, respectively – came from well back to be second by a half-length behind Axiomo going 5 ½ furlongs June 21 at Churchill Downs. Axiomo won an Indiana Grand allowance in his subsequent start before running fifth in the Ellis Park Juvenile on August 18.
“We were pretty high on him going into the Churchill race,” said Ramsey. “Unfortunately, being by Lemon Drop Kid, it was probably a little short for him but he came running and finished a very solid second. We were excited to get him stretched out on the turf and let him do what he wants. It was definitely no surprise last time. It was exactly what we were hoping to see. He got a perfect trip, great ride, and put all the pieces together.”
Ramsey said in addition to his performance on the track, Field Pass impressed his connections with his poise and demeanor leading up to the race.
“It can kind of be overwhelming for the 2-year-olds here, especially with the walk over and the big paddock and a lot going on, but he's handled everything great,” Ramsey said. “He's always been a very classy horse. He definitely doesn't act like a 2-year-old. He always does what you ask him to do. He's got a great temperament, so we're excited.”
R. A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables' Our Country debuted running fourth behind Field Pass before returning in a similar spot going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon course August 3, romping by 5 ¾ lengths for trainer George Weaver. By two-time Grade 1 winner Constitution, Our Country retains the services of jockey Manny Franco from post position 2.
The only other horse with experience at the With Anticipation distance is Michael Tabor's Eagerly, a bay son of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah who got bumped early and closed from dead last to be third, beaten less than a length as the favorite in a July 27 maiden special weight on the Mellon.
Eagerly is trained by Todd Pletcher, who owns a record six victories in the With Anticipation including last year with Opry. Pletcher's other wins came with Made You Look (2016), Azar (2015), Bashart (2013), Interactif (2009) and Bittel Road (2008). Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who rode both Azar and Bittel Road, has the call from post position 5 at low weight of 118 pounds.
Andesite, Fly Fly Away and Jack the Ripper will each stretch out in the With Anticipation following maiden victories sprinting on the turf. Madaket Stables and 4K2 Stables' Andesite was an easy 2 ½-length winner going 7 ½ furlongs July 10 at Indiana Grand for trainer Brad Cox, while Patricia Generazio's homebred Fly Fly Away got up by a nose in a 5 ½-furlong tilt August 9 at Saratoga – both as the favorite.
James Covello's Jack the Ripper raced twice in his native France earlier this summer before coming stateside, including a two-length triumph going 6 ¾ furlongs July 14. Also coming off a win is Walking L Thoroughbreds' Fighting Seabee, who broke his maiden going one mile July 6 at Ellis Park for trainer Ken McPeek.
Completing the field is August Dawn Farm's Tuggle, the only horse in the With Anticipation with stakes experience, having run third in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on dirt August 10. The Point of Entry colt won his June 21 unveiling at Belmont Park in a five-furlong sprint rained off the grass to a sloppy main track.
The With Anticipation honors the gelding that won five Grade 1 races and $2.66 million in purses for owner George Strawbridge and Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard in 48 starts over eight racing seasons from 1997 to 2004, including back-to-back victories in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, as well as the Man o' War at Belmont Park, in 2001 and 2002.
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