At the very end of the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga this afternoon, the talented 2-year-old colt Sporting Chance decided it was time to act like a 2-year-old child and give his opposition exactly what his name describes.  He threw a fit. He gave his opponents, who were desperately clinging to hope and more ground behind him, a sporting — if not a fighting — chance. And, it darn near cost him his allowance — which was a victory in his stakes debut.

Still — after veering out dramatically just a hundred or so yards from the finish line; after almost dumping rider Luis Saez, who was busy doing his best rodeo ride just to hang on; and only after surviving a stewards inquiry and a rider’s objection — Sporting Chance managed to win his first stakes race of his career and make for some great video feed.

The Tisnow colt, who is out of the Candy Ride mare Wynning Ride, will now be pointed to some of the best Stakes races in the country to prep toward this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar in November.

Fast closing Free Drop Billy, trained by Louisville’s own Dale Romans and ridden by Robby Albarado, got up to finish second, just a neck behind the flaky winner, who did his best Gate Dancer imitation. Just a head back in third was another Louisville-based colt, Givemeaminit, who is trained by Dallas Stewart and was ridden by Joel Rosario. The show horse, a Louisiana-bred, had been made a 50-1 outsider by the Saratoga oddsmaker who sets the morning line.

Sporting Chance’s victory gave trainer D. Wayne Lukas his 8th victory in the Hopeful Stakes. Going into the race, Lukas was optimistic.  And, the colt proved that the confidence was warranted.

“I feel good,” said Lukas, before the race. “I feel like my horse is a very, very solid horse. But it is a contentious field. At this stage of my career, I am no so naive to think I can overpower them in a Grade 1 at Saratoga. On the other hand, we have grandiose ideas that we have a pretty good horse.”

Grandiose, indeed. And, eventful, for sure.

The speedster appeared to have clear sailing when he zoomed to the front and was headed to the wire unchallenged in the deep stretch.  But just as surprising as his victory appeared to be easy, the colt suddenly decided to make a right hand turn nearing the wire.

The swerve was so severe that Saez nearly lost his irons and went tumbling off — first to the right, and then to the left.  As he tried all he could just to hang on for another couple of hundred yards, Free Drop Billy was making his closing move. Suddenly, with a horse now in front of him, Albarado shifted to the inside and had dead aim on the leader.

They ran out of time, and, as luck — or the lack thereof — would have it, they ran out of ground, too. They were only able to edge out Givemeaminit for second.  Before the race, Romans was just as confident as Lukas.

“I like our horse,” Romans said. “I think we’ve got a big chance. he’s doing super, good horse, he’s coming into it right, further the better. Hopefully there’s some speed in front, and we get to run by them. He’s just training good. I always thought he was a good horse, and he’s run well in his races.”

He was running very good at the end of the Hopeful, too.  But the leader — and, perhaps, the distraction — got the best of them.

Despite the decision of the New York Stewards to make no decision, many observers thought there should have been a disqualification of the race winner, and the title should be handed over to runner-up Free Drop Bill and rider Robby Albarado — who ended up losing by only a neck.

Included in that group was Free Drop Bill’s trainer, Dale Romans.

According to The Daily Racing Form’s columnist, David Grening, Romans called the non-call a “horrible decision.”

But Romans still may get the last laugh. In addition to Free Drop Bill, Romans has another one sitting in the wings ready for a return match with the Hopeful winner.

On June 15, at Churchill Downs, in his career debut, Sporting Chance lost by a growing 11/4 lengths to another very talented runner of Romans.  That one’s name is Dak Attack — who has since gone on to win the Ellis Park Juvenile and should be considered a top contender for some major Stakes events left on this fall’s calendar — including the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October, and, perhaps, the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar the first weekend in November.

Dak Attack is owned by the Albaugh Racing Stables and Brereton C. Jones, who bred the colt and sold 3/4ths sod him as a yearling.  (He was the focus of a major feature on The Pressbox earlier this week.)