Lukas Back in the Travers' Spoiler Role

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) -- D. Wayne Lukas knows the importance of winning the Travers Stakes, no matter who is – or isn't – in the field.

``It's the total focal point of the 3-year-old division after the Triple Crown,'' said the Hall of Fame trainer, who sends out long shots Shah Jehan and Gold Dollar against 2-5 favorite Medaglia d'Oro in Saturday's $1 million Travers.

``Next to the Triple Crown, it's the most important race for 3-year-olds. I'd love to win it again. I wouldn't be running these horses if I didn't think they had a shot.''

Lukas does not have a 3-year-old in the running for a division championship. Two colts who do -- Medaglia d'Oro and Repent -- will be running in the 1 1/4 -mile Travers.

Trainer Bobby Frankel says he isn't worried about any of the eight challengers his Medaglia d'Oro will face. ``If he shows up and runs his race,'' Frankel said, ``then I think we're in real good shape in the Travers.''

Repent, the 6-1 second choice making his first start in 140 days, is trained by Ken McPeek. The colt was considered a top Kentucky Derby contender in the spring before an ankle injury sidelined him for the Triple Crown races.

McPeek says a win in the Travers should put Repent right back in the race for season-ending 3-year-old honors. ``He's ready, willing and able,'' McPeek says. ``Now all he has to do is go out and prove it.''

Of course, both colts are trying to catch Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem. Coming off a win in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 4, War Emblem is the 2-1 favorite for Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. The colt is going against 13 rivals in his first race against older horses.

The Travers might not have one of its stronger fields, but a win by Medaglia d'Oro or Repent certainly enhances their status.

Repent never has been out of the money in eight starts -- five wins, two seconds and a third. Medaglia d'Oro has three wins and three seconds in eight starts.

``I think the Travers is coming up a little weaker than the Pacific Classic,'' Frankel said, ``because there are a few horses in there to worry about. In the Travers, I just think he (Medaglia d'Oro) has to show up.''

Don LaPlace, who sets the morning line at Saratoga Race Course, agrees. He made the colt 3-5 in the Jim Dandy Stakes, and Medaglia d'Oro won by 13 3/4 lengths.

As racing fans have learned over the years, never discount Lukas in big races -- especially when he's saddling long shots.

Shah Jehan is expected to set the pace, but hasn't won in his last five starts and has yet to run a 1 1/4 -mile race. Gold Dollar, also going 1 1/4 miles for the first time, was third in the Jim Dandy but moved up to second after runner-up Quest was disqualified.

``We do our best work when we're 20-1,'' said Lukas, who has Travers wins with Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Corporate Report in 1991. Thunder Gulch won the '95 Derby at odds of 25-1.

The field, from the rail out: Shah Jehan (20-1), Quest (12-1), Like A Hero (8-1), Repent, Medaglia d'Oro, Gold Dollar (20-1), Saint Marden (20-1), Nothing Flat (15-1) and Puzzlement (20-1).

Most Popular Stories