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HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

V.E. Day Wins as Jerkens Takes 1st and 2nd in the Travers

Coming down the stretch of the 2014 Travers, it was clear that trainer Jimmy Jerkens was going to win the Mid-Summer Derby for the second time in his career, however as the horses neared the wire it was not clear which one of his two runners would get the victory.
Coming around the clubhouse turn and entering the stretch Wicked Strong had taken the lead from the pace setter, Bayern, and at that point he looked like a winner. Javier Castellano guided V. E. Day, the other Jerkens runner, to the middle of the track to make one last run at Wicked Strong. In the final yards, Rajiv Maragh could hear a horse coming after Wicked Strong. He took a look over his right shoulder a couple of times to see that it was V. E. Day.
At the wire V. E. Day had a nose victory and Castellano, who was the only jockey in today’s field to have a previous Travers victory, had taken his fourth. His other victories came in 2010 with Afleet Express, who was also trained by Jerkens, with Stay Thirsty in 2011, and Bernardini in 2006.
"I was very satisfied, the way my horse did it today. I'm happy for Jimmy; he's a great horseman. He does such a good job. We've had good experiences in the past, winning the Travers with Afleet Express, said Castellano. "I'm very fortunate to ride a lot of good horses. I'm very blessed to win four Travers."

The race began as expected with Bayern, who was the 2.45-1 betting favorite, jumping out to a quick three-length lead. It quickly became clear that this race was not going to play out like the Haskell because Tonalist and Wicked Strong were even with Bayern entering the first turn.

The first mile of the race went with little change as Bayern set the pace. Tonalist was in second right off of the leader’s hip and Wicked Strong sat about a length behind the second place horse. The fractions were fast -- :23.74, :47.31, 1:11.27, and 1:36.60. At that point Bayern began to fade, he would eventually finish last, and the race between the Jerkens runners began.  The final time of the race was 2:02.93. V. E. Day paid $41.00, $13.20, and $7.30. His stablemate, Wicked Strong returned $4.40 and $3.10.  The Jerkens, barn 75, $2 exacta paid $167.50.

Castellano talked about the way he rode the winner, "The way I handicapped the race, a couple of horses had speed. In the Curlin he came from way back. I learned a lot watching that race. I just took my time. I had a lot of patience, and it paid off today."

In 2004, Nick Zito finished first and second in the Travers with Birdstone and The Cliff’s Edge. The rare feat had Jerkens wondering which of his horses had given him his second win in the Travers, "I wasn't absolutely sure it was V. E. Day because he had so much mud on him, until they got a little closer and I saw the silks and then I knew it was him. I said, 'Man, what a feeling. I know I'm going to win the Travers; I just don't know with who.'"

Jerkens also said, "It means an awful lot. It's unreal. I just feel bad for Wicked Strong; that's the only thing, he ran so hard. [But] I'll take it." 



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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


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