SHACKLEFORD & RULER ON ICE WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE
The last two Preakness winners to have run in the Travers won the race. Three of the last four Belmont Stakes winners that competed in the Travers also were victorious.
The field for Saturday’s 142nd Travers at Saratoga includes Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. But New York Racing Association linemaker Eric Donovan believes there are at least two other horses who the betting public will find more appealing.
Donovan installed Jim Dandy winner Stay Thirsty as the 5-2 morning-line favorite followed by Haskell winner Coil at 3-1 for Saturday’s $1 million Travers, which drew a field of 10. Shackleford, who was beaten a neck by Coil as the 3-2 favorite in the Haskell, was made the 9-2 third choice followed by Ruler On Ice (6-1).
Donovan said the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Travers may not be Shackleford’s best distance while he noted that Ruler On Ice was almost 25-1 in the Belmont and his third-place finish in the Haskell didn’t necessarily validate that performance.
"I thought we would be favorite," said Dale Romans, trainer of Shackleford who drew post 10 for the Travers. "But it’s a tough field. This is one person’s opinion; we’ll see what the public thinks."
Kelly Breen, the trainer of Ruler On Ice, who drew post 4, said he didn’t care what the odds were.
"The horse can’t read the board so it doesn’t matter to me," said Breen, who won’t ship his horse from Monmouth to Saratoga until Friday or Saturday.
Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Stay Thirsty – who won the Jim Dandy by four lengths and earned a career-best 106 Beyer Speed Figure in the process – believes the odds could be based on the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately theory as well as the fact that this year’s Triple Crown series "maybe didn’t wow anybody."
"Anytime you have a different winner of each leg, it takes a little luster off perhaps," said Pletcher, whose Stay Thirsty will start from post 9.
Stay Thirsty is a two-time winner over Saratoga’s main track and will be ridden by two-time Travers-winning rider Javier Castellano.
UNCLE MO DRAWS POST 7 AT KING'S BISHOP
Saturday is Travers day at Saratoga, but even a race as prestigious as the Travers may have to share some of the spotlight on this particular Saturday with the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, which features the much-anticipated return of reigning 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo.
The $250,000 King’s Bishop is one of two Grade 1 races – along with the $250,000 Ballerina – that will precede the Travers on Saturday’s 13-race program. The card also includes the Grade 2 Ballston Spa on the turf and the Victory Ride for 3-year-old fillies going six furlongs on the main track.
Everything has fallen into place for trainer Todd Pletcher since Uncle Mo returned to his barn in July, and they continued to do so at Wednesday’s post position draw for the seven-furlong King’s Bishop. Uncle Mo, who has not started since finishing third in the Grade 1 Wood more than four months ago, drew post position 7 in a field of eight 3-year-olds, while his chief competition, Flashpoint, will break from the rail.
“I’m really happy with the post,” said Pletcher. “Your biggest fear is to draw the 1 hole, which makes you have to commit early. Breaking outside gives us a little bit of flexibility.”
Pletcher’s colleague Wesley Ward, who took over the training of Flashpoint shortly after his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, was noticeably disappointed when informed by phone that his horse had drawn the rail.
“The 1 hole is never really a good thing, is it,” Ward asked rhetorically after learning of his draw. “A lot now will depend on the break and the first few strides. I really would have liked to have been a little more outside and had some different options.”
Flashpoint has trained extensively at Aqueduct for the King’s Bishop. He is undefeated at distances of seven furlongs or under and will be making his first appearance since cruising to a seven-length victory in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Jersey Shore on July 3.
by David Grening
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