Never Surprised seeks graded stakes victory in G2 Hill Prince

At 0h01, on October 23, 2021 By BELMONT

Repole Stable’s Never Surprised will make his third start at graded stakes level in Saturday’s 46th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds going nine furlongs over the Belmont Park inner turf.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Never Surprised has never been worse than second and arrives at the Hill Prince off a runner-up effort in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Saranac on September 4 at Saratoga Race Course.

The bay son of third-crop sire Constitution set the pace in the Saranac, finishing second beaten a length to returning rival Public Sector. The effort was his first start off an eight-month layoff, where he was second in his 2021 bow in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy on January 30 at Gulfstream Park.

During his juvenile season, Never Surprised was a 3 ½-length winner on debut going six furlongs over the Aqueduct outer turf en route to a score in the 1 1/16-mile Central Park over good Big A turf.

Pletcher said a more settled journey could lead to recapturing winning form.

“He’s a natural speed horse and he’s aggressive,” Pletcher said. “The key to success would be for him to be able to settle and relax enough to get the mile and an eighth.”

Never Surprised has trained forwardly over the Oklahoma training turf at Saratoga posting three bullet works, the most recent being a half-mile move in 47.55 seconds on October 15.

“I thought he ran really well off the layoff. It was a strong race and he put in a good effort,” Pletcher said. “I think he’ll be able to move forward second time off the layoff. He’s been working really well since then. He doesn’t seem to mind any kind of ground. The main thing is being able to settle a little bit.”

Pletcher previously teamed up with Repole to capture the 2013 Hill Prince with Notacatbutallama.

Kendrick Carmouche, aboard for both victories last year, will be reunited with Never Surprised from post 10.

In seeking his first graded stakes conquest, Never Surprised will face a familiar foe in Public Sector.

One of three entrants for trainer Chad Brown, the bay son of Kingman captured the Saranac off a ground-saving trip down the backstretch before making a sweeping three-wide move in upper stretch to win by one length.

Four weeks earlier in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame on August 6 at Saratoga, Public Sector received a similar winning trip when a more distant fourth toward the inside, but maintained his hedge-riding position down the stretch to garner a one-length victory.

Public Sector was second in the Grade 2 Pilgrim last October at Belmont before finishing 12th in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf five weeks later at Keeneland.

A victory would provide owner Klaravich Stables with their fourth Hill Prince with three different trainers after scoring with Subordination [1997; Gary Sciacca] and Outperformance [2006; Rick Violette, Jr.]. Brown and Klaravich joined forces with 2015 victor Takeover Target.

Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Public Sector from post 9.


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