Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel was in the middle of answering a question of how confident he was in Medaglia d'Oro for Saturday's 133rd running of the Travers Stakes (gr. I). "I'm never too confident," he said. "A lot can happen. That's why I only like to watch a race after they've won."
At that moment, Frankel was handed the draw sheet for the Travers -and dropped it to the ground as if someone had handed him a hot coal.
"I'm 2-5," Frankel said after Medaglia d'Oro was made one of the shortest-priced favorites in the history of the oldest stakes race for 3-year-olds in America. "Geez, they made me 2-5. No one is 2-5."
Whatever angst this news caused Frankel, the Brooklyn native could hardly have been taken by surprise. He has been a major player in big time races for many years and has heated up at Saratoga over the last two seasons.
Medaglia d'Oro, based on his 13 1/2-length romp in the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) on Aug. 4th, deserves to be the Travers favorite. But Frankel will be well represented in earlier stakes races on Saturday. He is running Juddmonte Farms' Surya in the $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares at 1 1/16-miles on the turf; Oakcliff Stable's Kappa King in the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/16-miles on the turf; and Edmund Gann's Labamta Babe in the day's other major offering, the $200,000 King's Bishop (gr. I) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
The Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup will be the seventh race of an 11-race live card. It will be followed by the Fourstardave , the King's Bishop (race 9) and the Travers , which goes at 5:55 p.m. Those four races make up the guaranteed $1-million Pick 4. ESPN will televise the King's Bishop and Travers live and will show the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup and Fourstardave via tape-delay during its 90-minute telecast that begins at 5 p.m. EDT.
If there is a common characteristic about Frankel's training method, it is that he likes to give his horses plenty of time between starts. This will be demonstrated in the King's Bishop by Labamta Babe, who will be making his first start since winning the Santa Catalina (gr. II) at Santa Anita back on Jan. 19.
"He had some problems; nothing major and nothing that required surgery," Frankel said. "I just gave him a lot of time to get over it. He has been training well, and I figured I might as well run in a big money, grade 1 race than put him in an allowance with older horses. I've done this before and it worked well for me."
In the Fourstardave, Frankel believes Kappa King is a strong fit.
A five-year-old son of Kingmambo, Kappa King was a stakes winner in France for trainer John Hammond before joining Frankel this spring. He won his allowance debut at Hollywood Park, ran third by a length and three-quarters in the American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood and was beaten a neck on a yielding course by Falcon Flight in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his most recent start on July 27.
"Kappa King just got beat by that horse (Falcon Flight) that was trapped down on the rail in the Arlington Million last week," said Frankel, who won the Arlington Million (gr. IT) with Beat Hollow, with two heads and two noses separating the winner from Falcon Flight in fifth. "That was such a close finish and that horse had a pretty good excuse, so I feel good about Kappa King in the Fourstardave."
Surya could kick off a big day for Frankel if she comes through inthe Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup. A 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled, she had a three-race win streak stopped by Golden Apples in the Ramona Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar on July 27.
"The filly is doing very well," Frankel said. "She was 3-2 against Golden Apples in California and she has had good spacing between her races. She usually gets three weeks between starts; by running here, she has four weeks."
Frankel, however, is not the only player this weekend. Following is a look at the three undercard stakes on Travers Day.
KING'S BISHOP: Like Frankel, trainer Mark Hennig will try to score with a layoff horse in Edward P. Evans' Gygistar, a Prospector's Music gelding who has won five of six career starts, including his last four in a row. He has not raced since winning the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont on July 7.
"We had been kicking around the idea of running in the Jim Dandy with him and I'm glad we skipped the race," Hennig said. "He wouldn't have been 100% going into it and if we had run, who knows how much time he would have needed to recover from the race.
"If you look back, you'll see he runs extremely well fresh. I'm happy with the six-week layoff."
FOURSTARDAVE HANDICAP: Del Mar Show, who tries for his third straight graded stakes win here, put on a show in winning the Bernard Baruch (gr. IIT) here for trainer Bill Mott on July 26. Under Bailey, he held off Volponi to win by a neck. It was another nose back to Forbidden Apple in third.
"We were lucky to come out on top in that one," Mott said. "That mile and an eighth is stretching this horse to the limit. I mean, he can get a mile and an eighth against lesser quality horses, but against good ones, that's about as far as he wants. This race on Saturday suits him much better, and he has been training pretty well."
BALLSTON SPA BREEDERS' CUP: Mott again figures to be a factor on the grass when he sends out Claiborne Farms' Watch in this race.
"She won up here earlier in the meet and ran a really good race," Mott said of Watch's 1 1/4-length victory on Aug. 7., in which she got a mile in 1:35.60. "She seems to like this course a lot, and they've done a very good job maintaining this course up here."
The field for the King's Bishop (gr. I), seven furlongs, 3-year-olds
PP Horse Jockey Odds
1 Smooth Jazz Edgar Prado 5-1
2 Labamta Babe Jerry Bailey 3-1
3 Najran Javier Castellano 12-1
4 Danielle's Magic Luis Garcia 20-1
5 Boston Common Jorge Chavez 12-1
6 Folkestone Park Richard Migliore 5-1
7 Thunder Days Mark Guidry 12-1
8 Day Trader Pat Day 15-1
9 Gygistar John Velazquez 8-5
The field for the Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Odds
1 Pyrus Jorge Chavez 113 20-1
2 Del Mar Show Jerry Bailey 121 6-5
3 Baptize Pat Day 115 5-1
4 Jubileo Edgar Prado 113 20-1
5 Autonomy Mark Guidry 114 20-1
6 Capsized Jose Santos 114 12-1
7 Kappa King John Velazquez 117 8-5
8 Sardaukar Richard Migliore 114 15-1
9 Sir Howard Yonis Lasso 112 50-1
10 Pure Prize (MTO) No rider 119 2-1
Baptize will race with blinkers on.
The field for the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT)
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Odds
1 Voodoo Dancer Jose Santos 120 5/2
2 Surya Jerry Bailey 117 3-1
3 Solvig Mike Smith 114 15-1
4 Cozzy Corner Robbie Davis 113 20-1
5 Snow Dancer Pat Day 116 8-1
6 Blue Moon John Velazquez 114 12-1
7 Watch Edgar Prado 114 12-1
8 Babae Jorge Chavez 116 5-1
9 Decencia Richard Migliore 116 10-1
10 Shooting Party Jean-Luc Samyn 113 15-1