Mucho Gusto, Chess Chief confirmed for the Travers Stakes

August 19, 2019 11:40am
Mucho Gusto, Chess Chief confirmed for the Travers Stakes
Photo: Benoit

Dallas Stewart confirmed Chess Chief, a Virginia-bred son of Into Mischief, for the Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes after the colt breezed a bullet half mile Monday at Churchill Downs.

The fastest of 36 works at the distance, the drill went in 48 seconds flat.

“He did great — worked great,” Stewart said. “We know it’s a tall hill to climb.”

On the west coast, Bob Baffert declared Mucho Gusto for the 1 1/4-mile Mid-Summer Derby after the recent Haskell Invitational (G1) runner-up posted his own bullet work, going five furlongs in 59.20 seconds at Del Mar.

"With that work, he punched his own ticket to the Travers,'' Baffert said. "We think he's ready to do something big."

Before the Haskell, Mucho Gusto won back-to-back Grade 3 races at Santa Anita Park, including the June 16 Affirmed (G3) in which he showed new dimension while rating off the pace. After that, Baffert said the Mucho Macho Man colt "has really improved."

He finished just 1 1/4 lengths back of Maximum Security in the July 20 Haskell.



Defections within the last week of Maximum Security and Game Winner opened the Travers up to a few new names. Stewart in particular is never afraid to take a shot as a former pupil of Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

Mike Smith will ride Chess Chief, with Joe Talamo getting the return call on Mucho Gusto.

Running for the Estate of James Coleman, Chess Chief will run back on three weeks’ rest from a runner-up finish to highly regarded 3-year-old Mr. Money in the West Virginia Derby.

Stewart purchased the late, April 24 foal as a yearling and hopes there’s improving left to do.

“He’s a big, good-looking Into Mischief — not too big but a really refined horse,” Stewart said. “He ran a good race (in the West Virginia Derby) and at a mile and a quarter, it looks like he wants to close on horses.”

Overall, Chess Chief has won one in 10 starts, breaking his maiden at fifth asking on March 2 at Louisiana’s Fair Grounds. He got back into the money five starts later at Mountaineer when sixth lengths behind Mr. Money at 35-1.

Again, though, beware of the Stewart longshot after Golden Soul (34-1) and Commanding Curve (37-1) ran second in the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and Tale of Verve (28-1) was a runner-up to American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness Stakes.

Another known possibility for the Travers yet to be confirmed is Gray Magician, the recent Ellis Park Derby winner, before the Travers draws at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday. Fox will broadcast the Mid-Summer Derby during a one-hour TV window beginning at 5 p.m. ET Saturday.

2019 Travers Stakes (G1)

 

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