It’s never too early to put promising 2-year-olds on your Kentucky Derby radar screen, which is why it’s time to say hello to one of the most promising juveniles of 2021 – Wit.

Wit-Key 2022 Juvenile
Wit breezed to an eight-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. He vaulted to the front of 2022 Kentucky Derby prospects, winning his two races by a combined 14 lengths. (Image: Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos)

The Todd Pletcher charge graduated to graded stakes champion on Saturday, capturing the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga by eight lengths. Combined with his six-length maiden special weight romp on June 5 at Belmont Park, Wit opened his career by winning his first two races by a combined 14 lengths.

Wit’s six-furlong Sanford win as the even-money favorite produced not only a smoother start than his debut, but a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. That’s quite respectable for a juvenile in his second race.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with his performance and I thought he broke a little better this time,” Pletcher told the New York Racing Association. “He put himself in a good stalking position and used his very impressive turn of foot around the turn. He’s a very well-behaved horse, very composed and mature mentally. He’s just one that, for whatever reason, is not super quick the first jump or two. It’s not a behavioral issue.”

Slow starts, fast finishes

In his first race, Wit broke slow and needed urging from jockey Jose Ortiz out of the gate. He was fifth at the three-eighths post, but by the stretch, was a length in front. In the Sanford, he got bumped by another horse coming out of the gate and pulled back a bit. But by the three-sixteenths post, he took command and opened up down the stretch.

“He broke a little better from the gate today, then Irad (Ortiz Jr.) hustled him way from there, gathered him up and the horse took him there,” said Tristan Berry, Pletcher’s assistant. “He probably had to move a little earlier than he wanted to get to that outside position, and then, he flew on by them there. He’s a very nice horse. I loved what he did.”

Berry was overseeing Pletcher’s Saratoga horses on Saturday. The Hall of Fame trainer was at Monmouth Park, watching Dr Post win the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup and Graceful Princess take the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher. That meant Pletcher wasn’t on site for his eighth career Sanford victory.

Wit shows plenty of charm for his connections, sire

No matter. The son of freshman sire Practical Joke is no joke. Wit provided his sire – himself a three-time Grade 1 champion — with his first graded stakes victory. He could provide him with his first Grade 1 progeny victory in the September Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Pletcher said that’s Wit’s probable next stop.

“I spoke to the connections a little bit after the race and that was everyone’s gut reaction. We’ll let the horse guide us, but that’s the logical next step,” Pletcher said.

Wit’s connections are among the East’s biggest stables: Mike Repole’s Repole Stable, along with St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Stable. St. Elias is owned by Vinnie Viola, the billionaire owner of the Florida Panthers and co-owner of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. Viola also owns 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso and the aforementioned Dr Post, who finished second behind Tiz the Law in the 2020 Belmont Stakes.

Wit went for $575,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He’s already earned $132,000 from his two victories.