Inaugurated in 1867, the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park is one of the oldest, and a favorite of mine, prep race for 2-year-old thoroughbreds whose connections have hopes for Triple Crown glory.
Speaking of glory, the Champagne honor roll of previous winners is a who’s who of Classic Champion Thoroughbreds. The Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Count Fleet as well as Birdstone, Sea Hero, Easy Goer, Spectacular Bid, Foolish Pleasure, Riva Ridge, Grey Lag, Colin and Ben Brush all won previous editions of the Champagne Stakes and would later become Classic Champion Thoroughbreds.
This year, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, whose last Champagne winner was Grand Slam in 1997 and Classic Champion Thoroughbred was 2000 Belmont Stakes winner Commendable, is hoping that his charge, Dublin, will eventually put him back in the Classic Champion winners circle.
Dublin (Afleet Alex-Classic Mirage by Storm Bird) is the 8-5 morning line favorite and heads a short field of six horses entered in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes which is an automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Division. Dublin comes into the race with a 4-length triumph last out over favored Backtalk in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Two other juveniles that I like in the Champagne are Discreetly Mine (Mineshaft-Pretty Discreet by Private Account) and Super Saver (Wavering Monarch-Supercharger by A.P. Indy). Both have nice pedigrees but only time will tell if they can live up to their breeding.
In his last outing, Discreetly Mine (7-2) finished second, beaten by 4 ¾ -lengths, to D’Funnybone in the Belmont Futurity (G2). Two races back, Discreetly Mine defeated Super Saver (4-1) by 6 ¼-lengths in a 6 ½-furlong maiden race at Saratoga.
Super Saver, trained by Todd Pletcher, is the only horse to travel a route of ground. Last out, he broke his maiden in a 7-length romp, 1-mile maiden race on a sloppy track at Belmont.
Another horse to keep an eye on is Aspire (3-1). He has been working out good and he finished a respectable second last out, beaten 2-lengths by Dublin in the Hopeful.
Despite the short field, this is a tough race and I especially like Dublin and Discreetly Mine. However, I believe there are several in the race who could step into the winners circle.