Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners’ Coal Front led the field wire-to-wire in Saturday’s G2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of Excitations to earn his first graded stakes win. The sophomore son of Stay Thirsty is now unbeaten in three career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. Ridden by John Velazquez for both he and Pletcher’s fourth win on the card (in just five races), Coal Front covered 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:16.05.
“We weren’t committed to the lead, the thing we were focused on was letting him break and kind of find his rhythm,” Pletcher said. “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.”
Coal Front demanded the lead out of the starting gate, and was joined in early pursuit by Mo Cash. That rival hounded the eventual winner through fractions of :22.32 and :45.90, while eventual runner-up Excitations trailed the field in the early going.
Velazquez asked Coal Front for more after straightening into the stretch and the colt responded willingly, drawing away from the field by several lengths. Excitations came with a big rally but could do no better than second as Coal Front crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths ahead. Singing Bullet got up in front of Mo Cash for third.
“It really worked out good,” Velazquez said. “We liked the post position and we wanted to get into position anyway. He broke really well. He settled really well where he was. It was pretty easy, really. 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.”
Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front was a $ 575,000 OBS April 2-year-old purchase. He broke his maiden first out at Keeneland in his sophomore season, then won a Belmont Park allowance race before attempting graded stakes company. Coal Front has now won three times from three starts, and earned nearly $ 220,000.
“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, $ 500,000] Allen Jerkens [on August 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.”
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