Saturday’s Amsterdam Stakes drew a field of six, led by Todd Pletcher’s budding star Coal Flight. Although no Amsterdam winner has gone on to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), last year’s champ, Mind Your Biscuits, was second in that event and has won three races and banked nearly $1.6 million since.
The roster of past Amsterdam winners is also impressive, including two-time Grade I winner Caleb’s Posse (2011), four-time Grade I winner and stakes- and track-record holder Quality Road (2009), as well as a couple of excellent future sires in the recently departed City Zip (2001) and Distorted Humor (1996).
Coal Front has been made the 7-5 morning line favorite and though he’s had just two lifetime starts, both have been impressive.
He broke his maiden by 6 ½ lengths at Keenlend on April 20 and followed that up with a 2 ¾-length score in a N1X allowance test at Belmont Park on June 8. But here’s the kicker: His lowest Brisnet Speed Figure (101), which he earned in his debut, is better than the best BSF recorded by any of his foes — ever. This is a powerful factor and makes Coal Front the obvious horse to beat.
If there is an upset in the Amsterdam, I think Singing Bullet could be the one to spring it.
Highly regarded as a juvenile, the Dale Romans trainee parlayed a maiden win at Ellis Park in his debut to a spot in the starting gate — at odds of just 8-1 — in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 8. He finished sixth that day and was also badly beaten in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs 22 days later, but an eight-month vacation seems to have done wonders for the son of Hard Spun and he returned to the racetrack with a good-looking win in an optional claiming event, again at Churchill Downs, on June 23.
Nearly a third of the races at the Amsterdam distance of 6 ½ furlongs have been won in wire-to-wire fashion at the Saratoga meet so far and in a race lacking a lot of early zip, I wouldn’t be surprised if Singing Bullet was sent from his rail position and I think he could be very tough to pass.
Despite getting drubbed in two graded stakes attempts, Excitations will try, try again for trainer Albert Stall Jr. and the return to a one-turn event should help. In three sprint starts, the son of Into Mischief has won twice and finished just a head behind Risen Star (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Girvin the other time. He’s got a shot at what promises to be a great price.
The aptly named Toga Challenger is another with the credentials to have an impact on Saturday. He’s never finished worse than second in five career starts and his last two speed figures indicate that he’s still on the upswing since getting claimed by trainer Rudy Rodriguez for $40,000 in his debut.
Mo Cash is the second choice on the morning line. He’s certainly got the talent to win — the gelded son of Adios Charlie has three wins and two second-place finishes in five lifetime starts — but his lack of punch down the lane gives me pause.
D. Wayne Lukas sends out Aquamarine, who was last seen running up the track in the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs. He looks a little slow, but so does Lukas these days and that hasn’t stopped the 81-year-old Hall of Famer from continuing to saddle winners.
My selections are 2-1-5. I would box all three in the exacta and also use 1-Singing Bullet and 2-Coal Front in any horizontal plays.
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