Mojovation has upper hand in Hopeful

Eight two-year-old colts will line up on Labor Day for the Grade I Hopeful Stakes; Saratoga’s traditional closing feature. They’ll be asked to go seven furlongs on the main oval in pursuit of a $350,000 purse. The Hopeful is Race 9 on a 10-race program; post time is 5:05 p.m. EST. Don’t forget to play along in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#1 MOJOVATION (2-1, morning-line favorite) has the fearsome John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher combination behind him in the Hopeful. He controlled the pace in his debut and drew off at odds-on, leaving a strung-out field in his wake. The rail draw should help MOJOVATION establish the lead once more, and he’s training very well for this. Being by Quality Road, he should be able to handle the additional furlong. Pletcher seeks his fourth career win in this race.

#3 FIRENZE FIRE (7-2) took a big step forward when he upset the Grade III Sanford over this course. That was his first start under Irad Ortiz Jr, who maintains the mount in the Hopeful. FIRENZE FIRE was able to beat #8 FREE DROP BILLY and #4 PSYCHOANALYZE in the Sanford, so he has a leg-up on them in here. The modestly-bred Florida product shows an unusual worktab (he hasn’t trained in a month), but it’s hard to question Jason Servis’ tactics (36% at the meet). He’ll be one to watch for turning for home, especially if he gets a hot pace to close into.

#2 OSKAR BLUES (10-1) was a 33-1 winner in his debut, which came at today’s seven-furlong distance. He was part of a fast tempo while racing inside and was able to persevere. Assuming he stalks MOJOVATION under Dylan Davis, OSKAR BLUES could improve and pop at a nice price.

The play: $4 exacta 1/2,3, $2 win 2 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Irad Ortiz Jr. carries a hefty price tag but is hard to get past this Monday. Chief among his nine mounts are FIRENZE FIRE in the Hopeful and favored Heart To Heart in the Bernard Baruch. Ortiz has three additional program favorites, two earlier in the day and the other in the meet’s closing race. He’ll surely be riding hard as he attempts to reel in his brother Jose for leading rider.

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