On Saturday, Leon Blusiewicz will be trying to do what no
trainer has done in the 140 previous runnings of the Grade 1, $1 million
Travers: win the race with a horse who’s made but one start.
While some lightly raced horses have won the “Mid-Summer Derby,”
according to Allan Carter, historian for the National Museum of Racing, no
horse has won the 1 ¼ mile race having made a single start.
Still, Blusiewicz has experience in the role of spoiler.
“I’ve done it before,” Blusiewicz said about having his
horse graduate from the maiden ranks into a stakes race. “You’ve got to know
your horse. This horse is exceptional. He’s as sharp as jailhouse coffee. I’m
just going to let Kent [Desormeaux] ride him. He’ll be there. The question will
be what happens when he carries 126 pounds.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Blusiewicz brought Snow Plow, fresh off
a maiden win, into the Selima at Laurel Park, where she defeated the heavily
favored Larida in the Grade 1 event.
Some 10 years later, the Baltimore native did the same thing with Tong
Po, who took the Federico Tesio Stakes at odds of 31-1 just a fortnight after
his maiden victory.
On Saturday, Blusiewicz will try to duplicate those feats
when he sends Admiral Alex out to face a contentious field of 10 other 3-year-olds
in the Travers.
Admiral Alex has run just once, posting a one-length maiden
win at Saratoga
on July 31, covering the 1 1/8th miles in 1:49.76.
Moments after the race, Blusiewicz – nicknamed “Blue” – had
the Travers penciled in for the son of Afleet Alex.
“When I brought him here to Saratoga on May 23, I had two races in mind:
a mile and an eighth for the first time and then, if he won the way I thought
he should have won, the Travers,” he said. “He’s done something that no other
horse [in the race] has done – he broke his maiden going two turns at a mile
and an eighth. I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment for horse.”
This will be the third Travers starter for Blusiewicz, whose
Lejoli finished fourth to Runaway Groom in 1982. Tong Po
was eased in the 1991 Travers, and the 79-year-old trainer believes Admiral
Alex has more to offer than those two horses.
“The last two times that I went to the Travers, I knew I had
no shot of winning,” he said. “I feel this horse has a big shot. He’s got a
race over the track. He runs in 1:49 3/5. He’s comparable. He’ll make a good
showing. He’s honest. If he wakes up like I think he will, he can be better
Born on April 20, 2007, Admiral Alex is out of the unraced
mare Madam Lagonza, dam of Grade 3 Lexington and Grade 3 Fort Marcy winner
Woodlander. Sent to Keeneland’s September 2008 yearling sales, he was bought
back by breeder Mike Connelly, sold privately and sent to Blusiewicz to train.
Not long afterward, Blusiewicz became the owner.
On the Travers morning line, Admiral Alex is a 12-1 outsider
against the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Jim Dandy winner and
7-2 favorite A Little Warm, Preakness runner-up First Dude and Florida Derby
winner Ice Box.
While Blusiewicz speaks highly of his horse, he knows that
the Travers is a steep hill to climb.
“There are a lot of nice horses in that race, a lot of
seasoned horses,” he said. “But this one has seasoning, too. I put him through
everything. I think he’s on the verge where his second and third races are
going to be better than his first. He’s an exceptional horse, but he’s got to
prove it. He has been training well; that’s why I’m putting up the money.
That’s what makes racing. All we need is a little luck.”