With one week remaining until the $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course, top trainers in New York are aiming for a single target – the stalwart form of Street Sense, who will head up the field of the Aug. 25 “midsummer Derby” with a solid bullseye on his back.
CP West, Sightseeing, Loose Leaf, and Helsinki have all been confirmed as definite starters, while TIz Wonderful, Imawildandcrazyguy, and For You Reppo are possible contenders for the classic race. John Kimmel trainee Timber Reserve will not start but will point instead toward the Sept. 3 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), the trainer said Aug. 18.
“The Travers is not timed very well for (Timber Reserve),” Kimmel said. “I feel he’s got the quality of most horses in the field, but it would be a lot to ask, moving him from a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter in that kind of race.”
After a narrow miss in the July 29 Jim Dandy (gr. II), the Nick Zito-trained CP West – who finished second to Street Sense that day – is gearing up for another shot at the winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The son of Came Homeworked four furlongs in :46.64 at Saratoga Aug. 16, much to Zito’s satisfaction.
“He worked great,” said Zito, who won the Travers in 2004 with Mary Lou Whitney’s Birdstone. “I think the main thing is to try and get ahead of Street Sense. Hopefully we get ahead of him and have some luck in the race.”
Zito’s arsenal doesn’t end with CP West, although the bettors will likely favor that one. The trainer also considers the Distorted Humor colt Helsinki a definite starter, following his fourth-place finish in the Aug. 5 Lemon Drop Kid Stakes.
“I think he had a big excuse in the Lemon Drop Kid,” Zito said of the Four Roses Thoroughbreds starter. “He’s a natural mile-and-a-quarter horse. We had blinkers on him last time and he had some trouble, so I’m going to take the blinkers off. CP West obviously has the credentials, but Helsinki is not that far behind.”
Ken McPeek trainee Loose Leaf is also up to challenge Street Sense after winning the Lemon Drop Kid. McPeek looks to stretch Steve and Stan Kaplan’s son of Notebook out to the Travers distance of 1 1/4 miles, and in preparation for the race, Loose Leaf worked five furlongs in an easy 1:02 1/5 Aug. 18 under Kent Desormeaux.
“He ran a really good race last time out, and I think the extra quarter will be right up his alley,” McPeek said. “He hasn’t run against this class of horses yet, but we’re going to give him a chance. He’s got a lot to prove, but we’re here, and I think the distance will help him even more.”
The Phipps Stable's Sightseeing, third-place finisher in the Jim Dandy, is also training well and scheduled to breeze Aug. 19 under his regular exercise rider, trainer Shug McGaughey said. The son of Pulpit got his last victory in the May 20 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
Trainer Helen Pitts was still on the fence regarding a Travers start for the El Corredorcolt For You Reppo, but said Aug. 18 he could be classified as a “doubtful” possibility. Trainer Bill Kaplan also said he was undecided regarding Imawildandcrazyguy’s options – the Travers or the Pennsylvania Derby.
“The distance of the Travers would be better for him, and the field will be smaller,” Kaplan said. “But the Pennsylvania Derby should be easier, and it’s the same purse. There are still a lot of factors to consider.”