SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Kantharos maintained his reputation as the best 2-year-old on the East Coast -- if not the country -- with a relatively easy 7 1/4-length victory in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Saratoga Special at Saratoga.
Bail Out the Cat, who valiantly fought with Kantharos until just outside the eighth pole, finished second by 11 3/4 lengths over the first-time starter Manchurian High. Blue Right By was last. Sovereign Default and Wetzel scratched.
Kantharos won for the third time in as many starts, adding the Special to victories in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor and a maiden victory, both at Churchill Downs. He has won those three races by a combined 28 1/2 lengths.
"He has been brilliant and I think he still is to this point," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Kantharos for Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable. "We just want him to continue to get better."
After getting bumped soundly by Bail Out the Cat at the break, Kantharos, under Garrett Gomez, raced in third position while in the four-path as Blue Right By ran an opening quarter in 22.25 seconds. Bail Out the Cat, under Alan Garcia, made a move for the lead entering the far turn, and Kantharos hooked up with him turning into the lane.
Kantharos and Bail Out the Cat ran together until just above the eighth pole before Kantharos drew clear while being taken in hand late. Kantharos, a son of Lion Heart, covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in the mud in 1:18.63 and returned $2.30 to win. With $238,725 placed to show out of a pool of $263,903, there was a minus-show pool of $45,577 on Kantharos.
"I thought he came into the stretch well, hesitated just a bit when he first left that horse, but late he really looked good and smooth, like he'll go further, which I think is what everybody wants to know right now," Asmussen said. "What he's done at these sprint distances has been very impressive and brilliant but we want to be greedy and get a little bit more."
While Asmussen said he has to talk with Jackson about future plans, a logical next step for Kantharos is the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park on Oct. 9.