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Hopeful Stakes Quick Picks
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Hopeful Stakes Quick Picks

by Laurie RossSeptember 6, 2021

The $300,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) has been held at Saratoga since 1903. Initially contested at six furlongs, the race distance was lengthened to 6 1/2 furlongs in 1925 and then changed in 1994 to its current configuration of seven furlongs.  

In recent years, Shanghai Bobby (2012) used the Hopeful Stakes as a stepping stone to a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and year-end honors as Champion 2-Year-Old.

Carded as Race 10 on Monday, the Hopeful attracted eleven colts, ridglings, and geldings. Post time is 5:38 PM ET. 

Let’s take a look at the colts most likely to hit the board.

#6 Wit (7-5)

Sanford Stakes (G3) winner Wit is the horse to beat, and he will attempt to follow in his sire Practical Joke’s hoofprints as a Hopeful Stakes winner. In the Sanford, Wit ran away from his competition by eight lengths, earning the third-highest Brisnet late-pace speed figure of 91. However’ Wit is returning off a 51-day layoff while others in the Hopeful have raced more recently. Win contender.

#8 High Oak (5-2)

Wit’s main competitor is Saratoga Special (G2) hero High Oak, who is also undefeated. He captured the Special by 4 1/2 lengths over Hopeful entrant Gunite. Bill Mott’s charge earned a 92 late-pace speed figure, but Mott is seeking his first 2-year-old winner at the Spa this year. Win contender.

#3 Gunite (8-1)

by leading freshman sire Gun Runner, Gunite has improved his speed figures in each of his four outings, and his 91 speed figure is the highest of his career. The Steve Asmussen trainee got a little tired from dueling on the lead, and he offered no resistance to High Oak. Asmussen is hoping for a three-peat in the Hopeful; he won last year with Saratoga Special hero Jackie’s Warrior and in 2019 with last-out maiden winner Basin. Exotics.

#2 Defend (6-1)

Defend was impressive graduating at first asking by eight lengths against a lesser group of maidens at Delaware.  Defend earned a 96 speed figure and owns the Hopeful’s highest late pace figure of 93. Exotics.

#1 Volcanic (30-1)

Volcanic came close to graduating at Saratoga in his second start at six furlongs. The Mark Casse trainee lingered at the back of the pack early, then closed powerfully down the lane to miss victory in a 3-way photo by a head, settling for third place. The impressive move earned Volcanic an 89 speed figure, and he could improve on that in the Hopeful. Live longshot exotics.

Hopeful Stakes Analysis

The last favorite to win the Hopeful Stakes was Competitive Edge in 2014; however, favorites have placed second or third in six editions since then.

Five Hopeful entrants have pacesetting tendencies, so there could be a hot early pace. However, this won’t affect Wit or High Oak, who have proven effective tracking the pace. From a class and speed figure perspective, Wit is the one to beat; however, High Oak and Gunite have the benefit of a recent race while Wit is returning off a 51-day layoff.

  • #6 Wit (7-5)
  • #8 High Oak (5-2)
  • #3 Gunite (8-1)
  • #1 Volcanic (30-1)

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About The Author
Laurie Ross
Laurie is a handicapper, pedigree consultant, and published author. Her work has been featured on numerous prominent racing websites and she is a reoccurring guest on sports radio programs. She is also a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association. Her yearly publications contain tremendous insight and value for bettors and horsemen. The Freshmen Sire Guide has received accolades from leading trainers and handicappers and her Triple Crown guides are a best-selling feature.