Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Against a dark and disturbing backdrop, brilliant trainer Chad Brown will take three shots at the breakthrough victory he covets in the Grade 1 Travers.
Brown has maintained his laser focus and done everything possible to conduct business as usual since he was arrested Aug. 17 and charged with “criminal obstruction of breathing,” a Class A misdemeanor. A woman who identified herself as an occasional significant other said she used a key to enter the trainer’s house and found him in bed with another woman.
In her statement to police, the entrant accused Brown, 43, of pushing her down a flight of stairs and choking her before throwing her out of the house. The defendant entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment and was released on $2,500 cash bail. He is due in court next Friday. If convicted, the Eclipse Award winner could face a maximum of one year in jail or three years’ probation.
Other than Brown’s failure to appear at the Travers draw, an event he has typically attended whenever he has a starter in the mid-summer derby, nothing has seemed amiss. The native of Mechanicville, N.Y., who has been extremely popular with local fans, is chasing a fifth Saratoga training title at a track he has cherished since boyhood.
“Coming to the Travers with my parents when I was knee-high is the only reason I’m in this profession,” Brown said during an interview at his barn. Since Aug. 17, Brown has typically done interviews under the condition that he is not asked about his arrest.
He spoke of the many family members and friends who frequent the track as they have for decades and exult in his success. “I think to win the race for them would mean a lot,” he said. “It would mean a lot to me personally. It would mean a lifetime of hard work and sacrifices you make being rewarded.”
While Brown is the pre-eminent turf trainer in the United States and owns two Preakness victories, including this year with Travers starter Early Voting, the Travers has been maddeningly elusive. He is 0 for 12 in a quest that began when Bowman’s Causeway finished seventh in 2011. His best results have come the last two summers, when Country Grammer and Miles D came in fifth and third, respectively.
Early Voting has much to prove after a dull Jim Dandy effort that left him last of four in the July 30 prep for the Travers. Brown blamed himself for not having the Gun Runner colt fit enough for his first start since the May 21 Preakness.
“He got a tough race out of that,” Brown said of the Jim Dandy. “He’s come back and worked twice. He is working better now or I wouldn’t run him. I had the option from the owner (Seth Klarman) not to run him. In fact, it appeared after the Jim Dandy that I was not going to run him.”
Early Voting’s two solid works – four furlongs in 49.78 on Aug. 13 and five furlongs in 1:01 a week later – persuaded the connections to give it a go.
Brown also admitted to having some reservations about Zandon, second to 7-5 Travers favorite Epicenter in the Jim Dandy and third when 80-1 Rich Strike overtook Epicenter in the Kentucky Derby. It did not help that Zandon and Flavien Prat must break from farthest outside, post eight, for the Travers.
“Zandon is going to have to find a way to turn the tables on Epicenter. He’s had dead aim on him twice now and he’s got to do it at a mile and a quarter. So he’s got his work cut out for him,” the trainer said. “On a positive note, the horse breezed Saturday just like he did before the Derby, as good as you can possibly work on this track.”
The son of Upstart drilled five furlongs in 1:00.65, ranking seventh of 17 at the distance.
Then there is Juddmonte homebred Artorius, a dominant winner of the July 29 Curlin at Saratoga. He will be making only his fourth start in the Travers since debuting at Keeneland in mid-April.
“The horse has always shown a lot of class, a lot of ability,” Brown said. “He got started a bit late, but we played the hand we were dealt. We didn’t want to compromise the horse’s development by pushing him. The horse has gotten himself here.”
Artorius’ connections must hope he can follow the uncommon path blazed by Arrogate, his sire. In only his fifth start, Arrogate demolished his Travers field by 13 1/2 lengths in 2016. His track record of 1:59.36 for 10 furlongs still stands.