Race of the Week 2017

Travers 2013 Post Position Draw Quotes

Trainer Shug McGaughey meets with the media at Pimlico Race Course on Monday, May 13 for Saturday’s $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1)..
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."


"It's 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)

"I'm 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)

"The 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 deal."


"The 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."


"With 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."


"This 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 step."


"Love 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."


"Basically, 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."


"I 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."


"I 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)

"I 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)

"I 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)

"That's 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."


"You 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."




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