Photo: Maryland Jockey Club, Jerry Dzierwinski
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Verrazano (No. 3, 2-1) and Palace Malice (No. 8, 5-2)
Did Palace Malice get the best draw between himself, Verrazano, and Orb?
"I think, ideally, you'd like to be outside of Moreno, who you think
will be the most likely pacesetter. Sometimes you worry about post
positions and the race doesn't unfold the way you think it will."
What do you think of Verrazano's post?
"It came down to [post 3] or [post 7]. I was kind of hoping he'd draw
[post 7], outside of Moreno, but he's a tactical horse that can put
himself in a good position, and, obviously, Johnny [Velazquez] knows him
well. We'll see how the race unfolds going into the first turn."
Are you concerned about having two horses with similar running styles?
"You always worry about that, especially with two horses with,
basically, the same running styles. Ideally, they're horses that want to
stalk an honest pace. I think we should get an honest pace in here, and
they're both going to be laying just off the main speed."
Are you concerned about how Verrazano will handle 1 ¼ miles?
"I thought [distance concerns] existed [for other people] until he won
the Haskell the way he did. 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. Just watching the horse train over the last year
and a half, I never thought he had any distance limitations."
How would you assess Palace Malice's and Verrazano's form coming off their wins in the Jim Dandy and Haskell Invitational?
"We're concerned we're trying to match lifetime-best performances in
four weeks. It's always a balancing act. We just hope they can come over
and run their races, and everything we have seen in their training
since the Jim Dandy and Haskell indicates to us they're still in peak
form. We hope it's still the case Saturday afternoon."
rare that you have horses go through a series of Triple Crown prep
races and then run in the Derby and the Belmont and seem like they get
stronger and better. In [Palace Malice's] case, he's gaining weight,
he's gotten bigger and stronger, more professional. He seems to be
thriving on it. Verrazano's constitution, he's very much the same kind
of horse. They're both horses that carry their weight well and take
their races well. They're kind horses to train; they don't overdo it on a
daily basis. When you have them breeze, they're right there doing
exactly what you want them to do."
Claude R. "Shug" McGaughey, trainer of Orb (No. 2, 4-1)
going to sound a little bit like Todd [Pletcher, trainer of Palace
Malice and Verrazano]. If I'd have had the six or seven or eight [post],
I probably would have been a little bit more happy than the two, but
we've got a long way to go. We can save some ground and, hopefully,
there will be a pace where we can get out when the time comes."
"I think when we put him on the van to go to Fair Hill the day after
the Belmont, he was pretty spent. He was a horse then; I think he's come
back a lot more of a horse for his experience down there. He only had
the tack off of him for two weeks, so it wasn't like he wasn't training
very much. But, he got bigger and put on some weight, and mentally he's
probably a lot sharper than he was. We'll find out Saturday whether that
experiment worked or didn't work."
"I'm looking forward to the Travers on Saturday. I think it's a great
race. With Palace Malice, you've got very much of a now horse that's
always dangerous. Verrazano ever since he broke his maiden has been a
top horse and the only blemish on his record is the Kentucky Derby, and
he sure bounced out of that pretty well. You've got the horse that
finished second, Wayne's horse [Will Take Charge] ran really well in the
Jim Dandy. You've got two Godolphin horses [Romansh, Transparent]. I
think it really comes up a solid race, with Moreno and Golden Soul in
there, too. I'm looking forward to Saturday. I'm looking forward to
running Orb, and I think you'll see him run a very good race."
Kiaran McLaughlin trainer of Transparent (No. 9, 10-1)
post I don't think is a big deal. The competition is. The horse is
doing well, and [the Curlin] was a true prep. He had some gaps in his
races, obviously, 112 days, and in his work tab, also. He's worked twice
since he ran and we're ready for him to run a big race. We got the
race, two works, and we're ready. His father, Bernardini, won the
Travers, [and] two sons of Bernardini, Stay Thirsty and Alpha, won the
Travers, so he definitely has the pedigree."
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge (No. 5, 10-1)
On the post position:
"Excellent. My favorite number. I think it is [meaningless]. We are
going a mile and a quarter here. We've got a little ways to go. I think
it's going to be spread out a little bit. I don't think everybody is
going to be bunched up going into the first turn. It will mean a little
bit on the break and it will mean a little bit on who's in the back and
who's doing what, and what they are thinking about as they try to get
position. It gives us something to talk about, but it's not that big of a
Derby experience seemed to affect him mentally. He got a little bit
more involved than you may want to think. He came out of that a little
less focused than he should have been; then I kept the blinkers on him.
When I went into the Jim Dandy, I decided to do something different - we
pulled the blinkers off. I thought that made a big difference. That let
him see everything. When Tom Durkin hollered, 'Palace Malice hits the
front' right at the top of the stretch, the crowd roared all the way to
the quarter pole. He [Will Take Charge] gawked at that and ducked in, then he came back out and ran at Palace Malice."
On the rider change:
"It's not surprising for me. I think that's the basketball coach [in
me] coming out. I get a gut feeling on who's playing well and who isn't.
I like to match them up a little bit. It's not to say that Junior
[Alvarado] didn't ride a real good race in the Jim Dandy. I
thought maybe Luis [Saez] would fit this horse a little better, be a
little more aggressive. I made an executive decision."
our clientele, this is where they want to be. As Cot Campbell so
elegantly stated here a few minutes ago, this is where you want to be.
If you are going to be in this game, this is where you want your
clientele. So for me to put [owner] Will Horton, after a less-than-great
Triple Crown, back into this picture, it's really significant."
Tom Albertrani, trainer of Romansh (No. 1, 12-1)
On his post position: "Well, we will save some ground, I guess, but no, I can't complain, it shouldn't really affect us at all."
horse has been improving with every start. He has only raced four times
and I have seen a big improvement after every start. And I was really
pleased with the forward step he made in the Curlin, and I could see him
actually making another forward step hopefully this Saturday. He has
been training great coming into the race. That was definitely his best
race. We were happy to be second. Transparent ran a huge race himself
and our horse was coming in off a bit of a layoff, so I could definitely
see where this race is definitely going to bring him over another
the way he has been going into this race. He is definitely more focused
and had a good work here a week ago. I am getting all the right signs.
The horse is just doing extremely well."
he is pretty fit. The Curlin got him where we want him. We had a couple
of works since then and he's a pretty fit horse. He is solid going into
this race and I couldn't have him fitter at the moment, so I think a
lot depends on a little racing luck now. Hopefully he is just good
enough to handle the rest of the field."
think there will be enough pace in here. Hopefully, we will be covered
up for a little bit and Javier [Castellano] can switch off a little bit
and just take control down the backside and have some run. Hopefully, he
runs like his daddy runs."
think with our running style he will just follow behind the leaders
into the first turn and Javier will place him wherever is comfortable."
Eric Guillot, trainer of Moreno (No. 6, 12-1)
like the post. Four, five or six was what I was hoping for. Verrazano
inside. But after all the positive feedback from Pletcher, I'm thinking
of putting in a vet scratch. Do I really have a shot? "
You said before the Jim Dandy you had the best 3-year-old in the country. He finished third. Have you lost any confidence? "No.
What I said was if he decided to start running and show desire, he'll
be the best 3-year-old. He was cooled out by the time I took the tongue
tie off of him in the Dandy."
Will he go to the front at the start? "Exactly. They've still got holes in donuts."
"My horse is going to have to run faster. 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."
How do you see the race unfolding?
"As soon as they smell the bear grease in his tail, right? On the first
turn, I'll be three in front and they'll sit back. Then they'll get
confidence up on the backside, and they'll get to the bear grease again.
Nah, it's the same deal - no sub-24[-second] quarters. Every quarter
has to be 24 and change. If they let me get off with that, this horse
has a high, high cruising speed. He's more efficient than Santa Claus on
Christmas Eve. How efficient is that?"
Does a fast track or tiring track benefit Moreno? "I
think a tiring track would actually benefit this horse, just because of
the fact that he gets over the top of the ground so easy, and he's got
such a high cruising speed. He so naturally floats over the track, it
would be harder for them to get where I've already been. I think a
faster track probably sets up where they go too fast."
Ken McPeek, trainer of War Dancer (No. 7, 15-1)
wasn't overly concerned on where we had drawn. I don't suspect he's
going to be close to the pace. We'll have to see how that unfolds, bide
our time and come running. We kind of pigeon-holed him as a grass horse
for an extended period. He was winning and doing everything right, but
he has been doing everything right on the dirt as well. We probably had
an opportunity to run in the Secretariat with him, but I think you only
get one shot at this [the Travers], and I think he's deserving."
On his only dirt start:
"That race didn't have much pace in it. I think we got a little bit too
far back and I know he didn't kick on like he had, but he did gallop
out really good in that race. I could have come back on the dirt, but
the easier thing was to get him back on the grass. Good horses will run
over anything, and he has shown he's a really good horse.
He's very rateable, a very easy horse to handle. He'll settle right in
stride, in a nice rhythm. I think the fact he's won at a mile and a
quarter is a big deal here. Obviously, this race is a lot tougher than
last year's. If you get it done here, it's a big deal."
Dallas Stewart, trainer of Golden Soul (No. 4, 20-1)
the [post position] I wanted. He's trained very well since that last
race [Haskell]. I don't have any idea why he ran so bad down at
Monmouth. 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."
know that last race was just a throwout, as we say, it just was not a
good race for him. This scenario, there's very nice horses here, there
should be a good pace, but they're going to finish. They're not just
going to back up. He's going to need to run his race to be right there. I
feel good about it."