Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners’ promising 3-year-old colt Coal Front remained unbeaten on Saturday, capturing the Grade II Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga by 1 ½ lengths.
The Amsterdam was the son of Stay Thirsty’s graded stakes debut and he wasted no time in his quest for a third straight victory, going right to the front and setting fractions of :22.37 for the opening quarter and :45.90 for the half, while being hounded by Mo Cash.
Turning for home, Coal Front spurted clear and built a three-length lead with a furlong to go. At this point, Excitations, back sprinting after two disastrous route tries, was in full flight and kept the winner honest in the final sixteenth of a mile. The final time for the 6 ½-furlong test was 1:16.05.
Finishing well back in third was Singing Bullet, followed by the aforementioned Mo Cash. It was another large gap back to the fifth-place finisher Toga Challenger. Aquamarine was eased.
Sent off as the 3-5 betting favorite, Coal Front paid $3.20 to win, $2.60 to place and $2.40 to show. Excitations returned $4.80 to place, $4.00 to show and completed an $18.20 exacta, while Singing Bullet was good for $4.70 to show and rounded out a $131.00 trifecta.
“It was pretty easy, really,” winning jockey John Velazquez said of Coal Front’s score. “He was playing around a little, and once I got serious with him, as soon as I let him know he needed to run, he responded right away.”
“We weren’t committed to the lead, the thing we were focused on was letting him break and kind of find his rhythm,” victorious trainer Todd Pletcher added. “We knew he was fast, but we didn’t want to be in a speed duel, but we didn’t want to take away what is coming easy to him [either]. We kind of left it in Johnny’s hands. Johnny said he was very relaxed, really comfortable — a really talented horse.
“It’s hard to win a race, much less the first three, and he beat a pretty strong group of older horses last time, and then to step up into a graded stakes, it just seems like he’s getting better and better,” Pletcher continued. “We’ve done a lot of work with him with the gate crew, and they’ve done a great job with him. He loaded up really well today, which he did not do last time. He acted really professionally during the race. He kind of pricked his ears coming to the wire which is hard to do when they run that fast. We talked about the [Grade 1] Allen Jerkens [on Aug. 26], we’ll see how he comes out of it. He’s a horse with a strong pedigree and enough talent to stretch out, when the time is right.”