SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Trainer Teresa Pompay, a Saratoga Central Catholic graduate, knows that bringing a horse who's not ready for prime time to Saratoga is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Judging from Currency Swap's impressive maiden win at 6 1/2 furlongs here on Aug. 6, she is well-armed entering Monday's Grade I, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds. In that race, he briefly lugged out and was four-wide on the turn, but overcame it under Rajiv Maragh and won by six lengths. That wasn't too surprising for Pompay, 50, who has always known this horse is special.
"From day one he's just shown a lot of class," Pompay said. "I got him in April at Gulfstream and we just started off slow with him. But he's never taken a bad step. He's never acted like a 2-year-old. He's always acted like an older horse. A lot of 2-year-olds, you know, you ship them, they get frazzled, they don't keep their cool. He schooled in the paddocks, he was actually just stopping and looking at everything. This is definitely the best horse I've ever been around."
The fact that Currency Swap, who will be coupled with maiden winner Clip the Coupons for owners Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence, has won at 6 1/2 furlongs should be a plus entering the 7-furlong Hopeful, Pompay said.
"It's definitely good going into the seven-eighths having that under my belt versus going, you know, coming off a five-eighths race, which a lot of the babies have been doing. And I really think he's going to love the seven-eighths," Pompay said.
For Pompay, who trains 35 horses out of Monmouth Park in New Jersey, winning the Hopeful in her hometown would be the top highlight of her career.
"It would be like winning the Kentucky Derby, kind of, because when I go out there, my friends, my family, they come out of the woodwork and ... it's exciting for them. I always try to go up there and run well because I know they're all going to be watching. And to grow up there and win a race like the Hopeful, that's very cool."
Pompay said a good Hopeful would be used as a stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the first weekend of November at Churchill Downs. The race itself is a Breeders' Cup Challenge race, meaning the winner gets an automatic berth to the Juvenile.
Pompay added that Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence have had a lot of offers on the colt since he posted a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in breaking his maiden.
"They've been wanting to get a nice horse like this for a long time that maybe could take them to the Breeders' Cup and the Kentucky Derby trail," Pompay said. "So, basically, I just told the blood stock agents to call. It would have to be an obscene offer before (they) would even consider it."
As confident in her horse as Pompay is, there are still several horses to fear in the 10-horse field, including J C's Pride, who set a track record of 56.54 seconds for 5 furlongs in his maiden victory here on July 27. He posted a 101 speed figure in that win.
"I'm hoping he gets out of the gate like he did his first two starts, stays in front and relaxes on the lead," trainer Bobby Barbara said. "If he runs as fluidly and smoothly as he did when he broke his maiden, he'll handle it."
Todd Pletcher will send out two good horses: Hunt Crossing and Big Blue Nation. Hunt Crossing broke his maiden by four lengths despite hitting the gate on the break. Bortoazzo Stable bought Big Blue Nation after his maiden win July 3 at Churchill Downs and sent the son of Bluegrass Cat to Pletcher.
Rounding out the field are I'll Have Another, in from California for trainer Doug O'Neill, Vexor, Power World, Trinniberg and Laurie's Rocket.