As one of the most buzzworthy maiden winners to emerge at Saratoga Race Course this summer, China Horse Club and WinStar Farm’s Theory figures to be the one to beat as he headlines a field of five in his stakes debut in the 126th running of the Grade 3, $ 200,000 Futurity at six furlongs on Saturday at Belmont Park.
A $ 335,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase from the freshman crop of Gemologist, Theory commanded attention in his Spa unveiling as he broke from the far outside in a 10-horse field and quickly assumed control under a brisk hand ride to draw clear by 5 ½ lengths and earn a field-high 85 Beyer Speed Figure in a six-furlong maiden special weight on July 30.
The Todd Pletcher trainee was being pointed toward the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 5, when the colt was sidelined with a foot bruise during training and sent to WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky. for recuperation. Returning from Kentucky in mid-September, Theory has taken up residence at Pletcher’s Belmont base, working on a near-weekly basis, including a 1:00.50 five-furlong bullet breeze Monday morning.
“I thought he worked great,” said Pletcher. “As soon as I watched him work, I entered him. I feel good [about the race]. He’s had four good breezes since he got here. We’re fortunate that we got to work around the weather a little bit. Everything has gone according to plan.”
Theory will be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 2.
Theory could face his stiffest opposition from William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Reckling for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Second to Theory in his first start, the son of Dialed In returned to break his maiden on August 27 at the Spa, wiring a field of 10 to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
Reckling will have the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr. as the pair depart from post 4.
Also expected to attract support is Grade 3-placed Star Empire. Trained by Wesley Ward for Belinda Bateman, the British-bred Foxwedge colt will be making his first start on dirt since winning his career debut by 6 ½-lengths at Belmont in May. Star Empire made a switch to synthetic surfaces in his next two races, winning an optional claiming race over the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs before finishing third to next-out stakes winner Wellabled on the Polytrack at Arlington Park on September 10.
Tyler Gaffalione has the call aboard Star Empire, who will break from post 5.
Rounding out the field are Moves Like Ali, a 1 ½-length gate-to-wire winner of his debut on September 4 at Saratoga for Loooch Racing Stables and Imaginary Stables and trainer Jeremiah Englehart, and West Point Thoroughbreds’ The Walk, winner of a maiden special weight September 17 at Belmont.
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