American Pharoah To Visit The Spa for the Travers

Volume 12 - Number 9
Monday 8/24/15

Travers One Of 7 Graded Stakes...
4 Breeders' Cup Win & In Qualifiers

After another scintillating workout at Del Mar on Sunday, when he effortlessly traveled 7 furlongs in 1:23.20 (and galloped out in 1:36.40), owner/breeder Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert announced that Triple Crown hero American Pharoah is headed to the one place most racing fans and definitely the New York Racing Association wanted him to go, to Saratoga for the $1.6 Million, Grade I "Summer Derby," the Travers Stakes.

Under normal circumstances having American Pharoah show up to compete in the Travers would be more than enough to categorize Saturday, August 29 as a marquee day. Not only do we have the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years planning to run but the drama of the race itself.

Saratoga is known for the dramatic upsets that have occurred here with the poster child for the underdog being Onion, who upset the mighty Secretariat here. But the Travers itself has had its apple cart turned upside down on numerous occasions in recent years.

Last year, with the public equally split among Bayern (2.45-1), Wicked Strong (2.65-1) and Tonalist (2.65-1) as the only perceived contenders in the field of 10 three-year olds it was longshot V.E. Day who came flying through the stretch to nose Wicked Strong at $41.00.

In 2013 the 8-5 favorite Verrazano was off the board as Will Take Charge ($21.20) was followed home by the second longest shot on the board, Moreno, for a $313.00 Exacta.

In 2012 there was the famous "dead-heat" between favorite Alpha and 33-1 longshot Golden Ticket that resulted in a $135.50 and a $230.00 Exacta.

In 2011 Stay Thirsty rewarded favorite players with a $6.80 triumph but the second, third and fourth favorites ran 8th, 9th and 10th while 14- Rattlesnake Bridge and 33-1 J W Blue ran third.

In 2010 Afleet Express returned $16.00 and the exacta paid $114.50 and the Trifecta $970.00.

Yes, American Pharoah will be the well-deserving favorite, but if there is one place he might stub-a-hoof it is in the Travers because not only have the price horses ruled the day but you have to go back to 2009 and Travers winner Summer Bird to find the last Haskell runner (Summer Bird finished 2nd at Monmouth that year) to find the last good performance from a Haskell graduate.

It is also worth noting that since 2010, with the exception of Golden Ticket, who dead-heated with Alpha in 2012, every Travers winner ran his prior prep race at the Spa.

At this point American Pharoah has not scared off too many opponents, although with 20% of $1.6 Million totaling $320,000 for second and 10% providing $160,000 for third there are many incentives to be the bridesmaids.

As of Monday morning the list of challengers includes Frosted who has danced every dance, always fires, and is back to try again. Juvenile BC winner and Jim Dandy winner Texas Red looks to have finally recovered from the ailments that short circuited his Triple Crown aspirations and enters following that bang up Jim Dandy win. Emerging Smart Transition won the Curlin 4 weeks back (V.E. Day's pre-Travers upset prep in 2014) and turned in an awesome 5-furlong :58 3/5 drill over the weekend. Preakness longshot runner-up Tale Of Verve looks ready, Keen Ice has improved his rally in every race and figures to knock hard again and despite a few hiccups trainer Todd Pletcher has always been high on  Madefromlucky so if that one goes he could be dangerous.

We'll have more on the Travers in Wednesday's edition of the SARATOGA PRIMDER so make certain you return to these pages.


I mentioned above that by itself the Travers and appearance of American Pharoah would make this coming Saturday a marquee day but the NYRA has gone all out to diligently put together what might be the biggest Saratoga race card ever. Consider that last year the 14 race card featured 4 graded stakes. There was the Grade II Ballston Spa, the Grade I King's Bishop, Grade I Ballerina and Grade I Travers.

This year the NYRA has completely rejiggered the meet schedule and has put together a 14 RACE CARD THAT INCLUDES 7 GRADED STAKES.

Grade II Ballston Spa
Grade I King's Bishop
Grade I Ballerina
Grade I Personal Ensign
Grade I Forego
Grade I Sword dancer
Grade I Travers

And if that amazing lineup wasn't enough, four of those races are designated Breeders' Cup Win & You Are In Qualifying Races.

Grade I Ballerina - BC Filly & Mare Turf Sprint
Grade I Personal Ensign - BC Distaff
Grade I Forego - BC Sprint
Grade I Sword Dancer - BC Turf

There is much information coming in and by Wednesday afternoon we'll have a great idea of who will be entered in these undercard Graded Stakes. At that point we'll take a look at how the contenders are developing as well as provide pertinent info regarding past performances in these races in years past and the edge horses repeating those patterns might have going for them.


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