By: Nicole Russo DRF
El Dulce will try to taste the sweetness of stakes victory for the first time in his nascent career, as the well-connected colt is favored in Friday’s $100,000 Skidmore Stakes for 2-year-olds sprinting on the turf at Saratoga.
El Dulce, by Twirling Candy, was bred by Clearsky Farm, which in recent years has been on a hot streak, with top horses such as champion Arrogate and Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman emerging from its farm. Clearsky sold El Dulce for $85,000 to Robert Brewer at last fall’s Keeneland September yearling sale. Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners then went to $200,000 to acquire him at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March sale after a brisk furlong breeze in 10 seconds.
Sent to trainer Todd Pletcher, El Dulce used that speed to notch a pace-setting win over the Saratoga turf in his July 29 debut, holding on by a neck going the identical 5 1/2-furlong trip of the Skidmore. John Velazquez, aboard for that win, will be in the irons Friday.
El Dulce earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 72 for his debut effort – the best in this field, but only by a narrow margin. Nauti Buoy posted a 71 on debut, while the filly Mentality and Dial One have each earned a 70. Nauti Buoy, who earned his top figure on the Laurel turf, is looking to rebound after trying dirt and finishing eighth in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes for trainer Erin McClellan.
Mentality was cross-entered in Wednesday’s $100,000 Bolton Landing Stakes for fillies, but runs instead in this open spot, as trainer Wesley Ward also has the well-regarded Fairyland for the Bolton Landing. Mentality held on to win her June 16 debut by three-quarters of a length over the Belmont turf, and cuts back slightly in distance from that six-furlong effort.
After his debut win on the Gulfstream turf, Dial One, also trained by Pletcher, was third in the Kiss a Native Stakes there on the dirt. The winner of that race, Diamond Oops, was sixth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special last weekend, and runner-up Bobby Ax came back to win a maiden race at Gulfstream on July 23.
The remainder of the main body of the field all are trying turf for the first time. Flameaway won his debut on synthetic at Woodbine, and Joopster won a maiden claiming race on debut on Saratoga’s main track. My Chinumado enters the Skidmore as a maiden, having been well beaten going seven furlongs on dirt on debut. Maiden-claiming winner Nuclear Option is entered for the main track only. Joopster and Nuclear Option are both trained by Ward.