By Alan Carasso
Sent off the prohibitive 2-5 chalk while making his first appearance in Grade I company, Three Chimneys Farm and Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Volatile (Violence) fell out onto the lead, enjoyed a soft time of things on the engine and turned it on late to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the GI Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. at Saratoga.
The Vanderbilt was reduced to a field of four by the gate scratching of Lexitonian (Speightstown), who was unlikely to have a say in the finish, but who may have set or otherwise impacted the pace. The start of the race was further delayed by Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect), who broke through the gate, but was pulled up after galloping about a furlong and was passed fit to run. The quartet broke as one, but with none of the horses showing particularly keen early interest, Ricardo Santana, Jr. took the bull by the horns and led the field through an opening quarter in :23.46, a nearly unheard-of split for this level of competition.
Chased around the turn by dual Saratoga Grade I winner Mind Control (Stay Thirsty) and GISW Firenze Fire (Poseidon's Warrior) farther out, Volatile turned for home after a half in :46.67 and dared them to match strides with him late. But as he had done in previous victories in Oaklawn allowance company Apr. 24 and in the Listed Aristides S. at Churchill June 6, he delivered a quick turn of foot and covered the final two furlongs in a career-best :22.94 to defeat a very game Whitmore. Mind Control held for third over Firenze Fire, the four horses covered by two lengths at the wire.
“For a Grade I sprint race to be allowed that first quarter [:23.46 seconds] was very fortunate,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, winning the Vanderbilt for the third time (Majesticperfection, 2009; Justin Phillip, 2013). “I think the anxious moments were all pre-race with the incident at the gate. Once he was away from the gate smoothly and they threw up the first quarter, he would be awfully hard to beat from there.”
Added Phoenix Thoroughbreds's Amer Abdulaziz: “We'll need to see how he comes out of this, but the future looks exciting. Today's win was an important one for his value as a stallion, but he also proved he is one of the best sprinters in the country. We'd love to give him a chance to prove that. This is our first Grade I winner with Steve and we are delighted for him and his team. Also massive congratulations to our very good friends and partners Three Chimneys.”
Volatile, his sire's most expensive horse sold at public auction when hammering for $850,000 at Keeneland September in 2017, was a debut winner at Ellis Park last August and was second in Churchill allowance company the following month before closing the season with a victory in Louisville Nov. 3. He posted stalk-and-pounce successes in his two aforementioned appearances this season while running up the score to the tune of 15 1/2 lengths combined.
Volatile is the second Grade I-winning sprinter for his sire in the last five weeks, joining 'TDN Rising Star' No Parole, who earned his wings in the Woody Stephens S. in similar front-running fashion.
Volatile, also the 24th top-level winner produced by a daughter of the late Unbridled's Song, is out of a stakes-winning daughter of Lady Tak, who was conditioned by Steve Asmussen to wins in this track's GI Test S. and GI Ballerina S. Lady Tak is also the dam of Japanese SW & GSP A Shin Spartan (Zensational) as well as the very promising 3-year-old filly Casual (Curlin).
Melody Lady is the dam of the 3-year-old colt Soccer Dad (Bayern), a $260,000 KEESEP yearling who was second in a Del Mar maiden turf sprint in his lone trip to the races. Her 2-year-old of this year is the Bayern colt Grendel and she produced a filly by Army Mule this season.
ALFRED G. VANDERBILT H.-GI, $232,500, Saratoga, 7-25, 3yo/up, 6f, 1:09.61, ft.
1–VOLATILE, 121, c, 4, by Violence
1st Dam: Melody Lady (SW), by Unbridled's Song
2nd Dam: Lady Tak, by Mutakddim
3rd Dam: Star of My Eye, by Lucky North
1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I WIN. ($850,000 Ylg
'17 KEESEP). O-Three Chimneys Farm and Phoenix
Thoroughbred III; B-Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Inc & Stretch
Run Ventures, LLC (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Ricardo
Santana, Jr. $137,500. Lifetime Record: 6-5-1-0, $341,040.
*Full to Buy Sell Hold, SW & GSP, $125,520. Werk Nick Rating:
A++. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Whitmore, 123, g, 7, Pleasantly Perfect–Melody's Spirit, by
Scat Daddy. O-LaPenta, Robert V., Moquett, Ron and Head of
Plains Partners LLC; B-John Liviakis (KY); T-Ron Moquett.
3–Mind Control, 123, c, 4, Stay Thirsty–Feel That Fire, by
Lightnin N Thunder. O-Red Oak Stable (Brunetti) & Madaket
Stables, LLC; B-Red Oak Stable (KY); T-Gregory Sacco. $30,000.
Margins: 1 1/4, HF, NK. Odds: 0.40, 4.30, 6.00.
Also Ran: Firenze Fire. Scratched: Lexitonian. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree