Michael Dilger spent seven years as an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher before going out on his own last summer. His solo career got off to a fast start when he won with his first stakes starter, New York-bred Wired Bryan, in last July's Sanford.
On Saturday, the 38-year-old native of Ireland will send out another Anstu Stables-owned colt in Big Guy Ian in the Grade 2, $200,000 Amsterdam for three-year-old sprinters on Saratoga's main track.
Big Guy Ian drew the outside post 9 in the 6 ½-furlong Amsterdam, which serves as Saratoga's local prep for the Grade 1, $500,000 King's Bishop on August 23. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will be aboard for the first time.
"It's better than being in the one hole, and it gives him the opportunity to see what everybody else does," Dilger said. "We've liked him all along; that's why we bought him. We're just hoping he can live up to the potential that we think we've seen in him."
AMSTERDAM STAKES DRAW
Purchased for $375,000 as a two-year-old in training last April, the chestnut son of Birdstone hasn't sprinted since his debut in December at Gulfstream Park. He broke his maiden going a mile in his next start and ran fourth by 2 ½ lengths to Amsterdam contender C Zee in the Sir Bear before leaving Florida. Most recently, Big Guy Ian was third in a one-mile optional claimer on June 25 at Belmont.
"He's training very well," Dilger asserted. "I'm not concerned about him cutting back because he's shown so much speed in his races. It seems like he should have enough speed to be competitive in this spot.
"I guess with his pedigree we expected him to stretch out, but it seems like a mile would be his limit. He's gotten stronger as the year has gone on and he continues to do well. He's developing into quite a big, strong horse and hopefully that continues."
Dilger also mentioned that romping Calder Derby winner Our Caravan, who is back on a regular work schedule following his sixth-place finish in the May 10 Peter Pan at Belmont, is progressing toward his next start.
The horseman arrived at Saratoga in May and will stay through the end of October. He currently has 18 horses at the Spa and another 20 stabled at Belmont Park.
"It's taken off," he said. "We've got some New York-bred fillies that are going to start running here shortly. Last year we stayed until the 31st of October and went straight to Florida. This year we'll leave again on the 31st but we'll probably have a bigger string at Belmont and see what we do from there. We plan on keeping some horses in New York for the winter, as well."