It was unrealistic to expect Volatile to repeat his effort in the Aristides at Churchill Downs back on June 6th in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt at Saratoga on Saturday. Most horses, even the best of them will regress off such a fast race. The really fast and classy ones can regress, or bounce and still win. That is what we saw with Volatile. Volatile is probably better with a target but he had no such set up in the Vanderbilt. A race devoid of any speed to stay with him at any point in the race, Ricardo Santana put Volatile on the pace and slowed things down like he is supposed to do. When it came time to spurt away, Volatile responded.
You can’t beat what you can’t catch!
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Volatile extended an impressive start to his 4-year-old campaign, staying undefeated in 2020 after going to the front and drawing away from the four-horse field in the stretch for a 1 1/4-length win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga Race Course.
Owned by Three Chimneys Farm and Phoenix Thoroughbred III, Volatile started his 2020 season with a 7 ½-length allowance score in April at Oaklawn before dominating in his first stakes appearance with an eight-length triumph at Churchill Downs in the Aristides on June 6 that netted a 112 Beyer Speed Figure.
Whitmore, the 4-1 second choice, broke through the gate before the start of the race but was quickly pulled up by jockey Joel Rosario. Lexitonian, the longest shot on the board, was subsequently scratched at the gate, and the four-horse field was backed out and then reloaded.
Volatile, who Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen moved up in class, wasn’t fazed by the slight delay, going an easy quarter-mile in 23.46 seconds and the half in 46.67 on the fast main track.
Volatile set the pace and kicked on when straightened for home by jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., repelling Whitmore’s inside bid near the top of the stretch before completing six furlongs in a final time of 1:09.61.
The Violence colt improved to 3-for-3 this year and is 5-1-0 in six career starts – all at six furlongs. An $850,000 purchase at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, he has won four straight starts and has earned winner’s circle trips at four different racetracks.
“He was really on his toes today,” said Santana, Jr., who won two on the card. “Steve gave him a lot of time from his last race and he was feeling great. I was really happy with how he was out there. I’m glad we backed off from the gate again. When we came up [to the gate] he relaxed really well and then I was happy because I could see he was ready to go. The gate opened and he put me in the spot that he wanted, and I was happy, too. Turning for home, he kicked really well.”
“When he broke, he broke really sharp and he’s a horse that’s cool,” Santana Jr. said.
“Today he relaxed really well…I was very happy because he was very happy.”
The 2-5 favorite, Volatile returned $2.80 on a $2 win wager. He improved his career earnings to $341,040 and gave Asmussen his third career Vanderbilt win, joining Justin Phillip in 2013 and Majesticperfection in 2010.
“We saw the first two races from him this year and they were absolutely brilliant,” Asmussen said. “I feel very good about getting those races into him before he met accomplished horses like this. But from an ability or a speed level, he has it all.”
Asmussen said he was confident Volatile could be stretched out at some point. The conditioner said the plan is to target the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 7 at Keeneland.
“We will discuss it, but we obviously feel the Breeders’ Cup is where we want to be with him at the of the year and how we get there from here is going to be the plan,” Asmussen said.
“We’ll have a sit down with Steve and our partners but I imagine we’ll be charting a path to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint,” said Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO Amer Abdulaziz
“We’ll need to see how he comes out of this, but the future looks exciting. Today’s win was an important one for his value as a stallion, but he also proved he is one of the best sprinters in the country. We’d love to give him a chance to prove that.
“This is our first Grade One winner with Steve and we are delighted for him and his team. Also massive congratulations to our very good friends and partners Three Chimneys.”
Six-time graded stakes-winner Whitmore finished a half-length in front of Mind Control for second. The Ron Moquett trainee, whose previous Saratoga appearance was a victorious 2018 Grade 1 Forego, was making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint in April at Oaklawn.
“I was in a good position and he was enjoying everything in there,” Rosario said. “I thought for a second we were going to come and get the winner, but he was too good today. I was up close and my horse was there for me. I could see the pace wasn’t very fast, but he was travelling hard and very comfortable on the inside there. He’s a champ.”
Mind Control, who won the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at the Spa last year for trainer Gregg Sacco, edged Firenze Fire by a neck for third.
Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap Replay
Live racing returns on Saratoga on Sunday with a 10-race card which features the Grade 2, $150,000 Bernard Baruch over the Mellon turf course for 3-year-olds and upward. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Entries for Sunday, July 26
Edited NYRA Press Release
Photo: Volatile. Credit: NYRA/Coglianese Photo