Horse racing is a game of risk and reward. Sometimes you
have to take a risk in order to make it big. This could not be any more true when it comes to the brilliant son of Unbridled’s Song, Cross Traffic.
The Todd Pletcher trainee has always been a brilliant one. Freakishly fast with
an indomitable fighting spirit. He made his career debut at Gulfstream Park, at four years
old, a late start by thoroughbred racing standards. He won by nearly two
lengths in a snappy 1.15.79. Cross Traffic returned two months later, back at
Gulfstream, in an allowance optional claimer, where he made mincemeat of grade
one placed Fast Falcon, winning by over seven lengths, in 1.35.17.
His next outing would be at Belmont in the one mile
Westchester stakes, against none other than the King of Belmont himself, Flat
Out. He took the lead early, setting a blistering pace, 22.77, 45.33, and a
blistering 1.08.87. He burned away anyone who came near him, but the pace had
set it up for the old veteran, Flat Out who came with his run. Cross Traffic
refused to fold as his older, more experienced foe came to him, but the early
pace took its toll, and at the end Flat Out got up in the last jump.
The margin that separated Cross Traffic from victory was a
heartbreaking nose, and it would be the same story again in the grade one Met
Mile. The California based Sahara Sky would nip the front running colt in the
final jump, giving the colt his second heartbreaker in a row. Cross Traffic had
run two amazing, courageous races. It is rare that you see a horse run as fast
as he did, earning the ratings he did, and still run second.
After that loss, Pletcher decided to give Cross Traffic his
first try at two turns, in the grade one Whitney Stakes, against multiple grade
one winner Fort Larned, Breeders Cup
Classic runner-up Mucho Macho Man, the fleet-footed Successful Dan, 2012
Travers winning Alpha, and Sunshine Millions runaway winner Ron the Greek. It
was a stacked field, and Fort Larned was an undisputed favorite, off of his
runaway victory in the Grade one Stephen Foster.
When the gates opened Cross Traffic broke on top, and
luckily for him, Fort Larned, his front running rival, missed the break. Cross
Traffic was allowed a leisurely opening quarter in 24.17, but after that Fort
Larned made a move at him, and the pace quickened rapidly. The second individual
quarter went in 23.11, and the next in 22.96. Blistering for a route race,
especially over the tiring track of Saratoga.
Around the far turn both Mucho Macho Man and Fort Larned
launched their bids at their lightly raced rival, but they were not prepared by
the fight that they were about to meet. Like a seasoned veteran, who has fought
many battles Cross Traffic stood his ground and repelled his foes. At the wire
it was only the late running Successful Dan who came close to Cross Traffic,
but on this day he would not win. Whitney day belonged solely to Cross Traffic.
After two heartbreaking losses, the silver streak of lighting took home a big
Now, the question is where do they go with Cross Traffic? If
they want Horse of the Year they will have to go 10 furlongs at some point, but
the question is when? There is no denying Cross Traffic’s heart, but he was
getting tired at the end of the Whitney. As of now his connections have several
options, including the Forego, Kelso, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders
Cup Dirt Mile, and Breeders Cup Classic.
If this were my decision I’d make my 10 furlong assault in
the Jockey Club Gold Cup. At one turn over the speed favoring Belmont surface
Cross Traffic would have a very good shot at being able to stretch his speed
over the Classic distance. Before that I would lean towards either the Forego
or Woodward, with a little more favoritism to the latter. The Woodward being
nine furlongs would give him a better foundation going into the longer Jockey
Club Gold Cup. After that I’d take him and go to the Dirt Mile.
Should he succeed in all three, he will likely be the only
horse to have a grade one win at three different distances, all in very
prestigious races against the best horses at a mile and route distances. I
believe this brilliant colt has the potential to pull this off come November.
With his freakish speed he has the potential to put on quite a show come fall.