Derby winner Orb makes his return to racing on Saturday, when he will
face Belmont Stakes hero Palace Malice, multiple Grade 1 winning
Verrazano and six others in the 144th renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million
Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
centerpiece of the annual summer meet at Saratoga, which is celebrating
its 150th anniversary this year, the 1 ¼-mile Travers debuted in 1864
and is one of the oldest stakes races for 3-year-olds in the country,
run at the nation's oldest major sporting venue.
Travers highlights a 14-race card that kicks off with a special
first-race post time of 11:35 a.m. and also features the Grade 1,
$500,000 Foxwoods King's Bishop, the Grade 1, $500,000 Test and the
Grade 2, $250,000 Ketel One Ballston Spa.
will provide live coverage of the Foxwoods King's Bishop and Travers
from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The final leg of a $1 million Guaranteed All-Graded
Stakes Pick 4 being offered by the New York Racing Association, Inc.
(NYRA), the Travers has a post time of 5:46 p.m.
Todd Pletcher, who won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley and 2011
with Stay Thirsty, takes aim at his third victory with both Verrazano
and Palace Malice. Verrazano has won six of seven career starts, his
past two by 19 combined lengths, most recently taking the Grade 1
Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 28.
by Let's Go Stable, Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith,
Verrazano was installed as the 2-1 program favorite by NYRA oddsmaker
Eric Donovan, given a slight edge over Dogwood Stable's Palace Malice,
the 5-2 second choice.
always try to do what's best for each individual horse and each
individual owner, and I think the Travers is the right race for both
horses," Pletcher said. "It's kind of as simple as that. I'm as
interested to see it as everyone else. They're two horses that are doing
unbelievably well and coming off really, really good races. It's going
to be interesting. I think it's going to be a fun race to watch. It's
shaping up to be a great Travers."
only try at the Travers distance came in the Kentucky Derby, where he
finished 14th of 19 over a sloppy, sealed track. Winner of the Grade 2
Tampa Bay Derby and Grade 1 Wood Memorial, he rebounded to take the
Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth before his 9 ¾-length romp in the Haskell.
thought [distance concerns] existed [for other people] until he won the
Haskell the way he did," Pletcher said. "The track was very demanding
that day, probably the slowest Monmouth track I had ever seen. For him
to draw away like he did at the end of a mile and an eighth, to me, put
away any concerns about that."
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Verrazano from post position 3.
maiden winner at Saratoga last summer, Palace Malice scored his first
stakes victory in the 1 ½-mile Belmont on June 8, beating both Orb and
Preakness winner Oxbow, and followed up with a professional one-length
victory in the Spa's hometown Travers prep, the 1 1/8-mile Grade 2 Jim
Dandy on July 28. He faded to 12th after setting a wicked pace in the
seems like in the period of time from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont
that he kind of stepped his game up another notch," Pletcher said. "For
whatever reason, he's become a little more professional and learned to
put himself in a good position and deliver that closing punch. I guess
you could say it all came together after the Derby, but his talent's
always been there."
to join 1969 Horse of the Year Arts and Letters as the only horses to
win the Belmont, Jim Dandy and Travers, Palace Malice will break from
post position 8 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Stuart Janney, III and the Phipps
Stable, Orb ran his win streak to five in the Kentucky Derby, where he
trailed by nearly 18 lengths before rallying to hit the wire 2 ½ lengths
in front of Golden Soul.
in the Preakness and third in the Belmont, Orb spent nine weeks at the
Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland before arriving in Saratoga on
August 11. Favored in all three Triple Crown races, the Malibu Moon colt
is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line for the Travers.
his walk and his appearance and the way he's been acting has all been
reminiscent of what was going on over the winter. I think the time off
after the Belmont has helped him," McGaughey said. "I'm looking forward
to the Travers. I think it's a great race. I'm looking forward to
running Orb, and I think you'll see him run a very good race."
will be the first Kentucky Derby winner to run in the Travers since
Super Saver was 10th in 2010. Super Saver's loss snapped a three-race
win streak by the previous Derby winners in the Travers - Sea Hero
(1993), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Street Sense (2007).
like to get him back on the right track so we can have a positive fall
with him," said McGaughey. "Obviously, we're in the race to win, but if
we get a really good, solid effort, that would be fine, too, just so we
can move on. But, I think he'll be awful tough."
Joel Rosario, up for three of Orb's five career wins, including the Derby, will be in the irons again from post position 2.
from the middle of the field in post 5 will be Will Take Charge,
trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas for owner Willis D. Horton.
Along with Orb and injured stablemate Oxbow, Will Take Charge is one of
three horses to compete in all three Triple Crown races.
son of Unbridled's Song ran into traffic trouble in the Kentucky Derby
and wound up eighth. He finished seventh in the Preakness and 10th in
the Belmont before rebounding to come within a length of winner Palace
Malice in the Jim Dandy, finishing second.
really thought he would get one of the Classics, but it just wasn't
meant to be," Lukas said. "We get a second chance here with the Travers,
so we'll see what happens. He's had a good month since the Jim Dandy, a
very good month. He was a little immature through the whole Triple
Crown. I like what I see now, so maybe we're just finding out about him.
I look for a big effort."
New rider Luis Saez will make his Travers debut on Will Take Charge, 10-1 on the morning line.
needing 10 races to break his maiden, which came on the Belmont Stakes
undercard on June 8, Moreno was a gate-to-wire winner of the Grade 2
Dwyer and set the pace through six furlongs of the Jim Dandy before
giving way and finishing a decisive third. Jose Ortiz will ride the son
of Ghostzapper from post 6.
horse is going to have to run faster," said Eric Guillot, who trains
Moreno for Southern Equine Stable. "We're here to play. We're here for
fun. It's the Travers. [Owner Michael Moreno] and I, this is what we do.
Like I told him the other day, I'm not going to get up at 4:30 seven
days a week and not go to the big dance."
year's Travers produced a dead-heat for first, and both winning
trainers are back to defend their title. Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle
Transparent, one of two Godolphin Stable-owned horses in the race, while
Ken McPeek sends out War Dancer, a Grade 2 winner on grass making just
his second start on dirt.
was a two-length winner of the 1 1/8-mile Curlin at Saratoga on July
26, but was disqualified for interference and placed fifth. The Curlin
was the first race in 112 days for Transparent, whose father,
Bernardini, won the Travers in 2006 and sired 2011 winner Stay Thirsty
and 2012 co-winner Alpha, trained by McLaughlin.
[No. 9] post I don't think is a big deal; the competition is,"
McLaughlin said. "The horse is doing well. He's worked twice since he
ran, and we're ready for him to run a big race. We got the race [and]
two works, and we're ready."
Listed at 10-1 on the morning line, Transparent will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.
shared last year's Travers victory with Golden Ticket, who went off at
33-1. He returns with War Dancer, who won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at 1
¼ miles on July 13 at Colonial Downs in his most recent start. The War
Front colt has been off the board once in seven starts, when he was
fourth in a Gulfstream Park maiden race in February.
think the fact that he's won at a mile and a quarter is a big deal
here," McPeek said. "Obviously, this race is a lot tougher than last
year's. If you get it done here, it's a big deal."
Alan Garcia will be aboard War Dancer, 15-1, from post 7.
other Godolphin Stable-owned son of Bernardini in the Travers is
Romansh, to be ridden by Javier Castellano from post 1. Trained by Tom
Albertrani, Romansh finished second in the Curlin to his entrymate but
was promoted to first in what was his stakes debut. He has run three
previous times this year, including a maiden victory against older
horses at Belmont Park on May 25 at 1 1/16 miles.
horse has been improving with every start. He has raced only four
times, and I have seen a big improvement after every start," Albertrani
said. "I love the way he has been going into this race. He is definitely
more focused. I am getting all the right signs. Hopefully, he is just
good enough to handle the rest of the field."
Golden Soul came flying from well back to finish second in the Kentucky
Derby,but followed with disappointing efforts in the Belmont Stakes,
where he was ninth, and the Haskell, where he finished last of seven.
Owned by Charles Fipke, Golden Soul will break from post 4 with Robby Albarado up.
don't have any idea why he ran so bad down at Monmouth," trainer Dallas
Stewart said. "He's trained great here; he's passed every health check
that we've given him. He's passed every workout; time-wise, they've been
great. His appetite is terrific. I couldn't be happier with him. I
think he can compete, so here we are."