Darley Stable's Bernardini, the expected favorite for the $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 26, turned in a strong five furlong breeze in 1:00 3/5 at Saratoga Thursday, the second fastest of 20 works at the distance.Bernardini
, a nine-length winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) July 29 in his first start since taking the Preakness (gr. I) May 20, likely will face a solid field in the 1 1/4-mile event, headed by Bluegrass Cat
, who romped by seven lengths in Monmouth's Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I), and West Virginia Derby (gr. III) winner Bright One
, who has won his last three starts by daylight.
"The track was deep this morning," trainer Tom Albertrani said following Bernardini's work. "He went his last three-eighths in:36 2/5, galloped out in 1:13 3/5, and pulled up seven furlongs in 1:27. Today, we wanted to make sure he got more out of it than last time. That was more of an easy breeze for him. He picked it up nicely, and went in about :47 from the three-eighths pole past the wire. He's a very special horse. If he stays at this level and stays healthy, he's going to be very tough to beat.
"Bluegrass Cat is a solid 3-year-old who was impressive last time out and was second in two classics, so this will be another good test for him. And it looks like Bright One is going, too. It definitely makes the race more interesting with those kinds of horses in there."
Also pointing for the Travers are Ohio Derby (gr. II) runner-up High Cotton
, Lewis Michael
, Victory Lake
, and Minister's Bid
and Dr. Pleasure
from the John T. Ward Jr. barn.
Ward said he elected to make Strong Contender his "first reserve" and go with the two horses who ran four weeks ago in the Jim Dandy.
"Dr. Pleasure and Minister's Bid both will have a light workout this weekend," Ward said. "Then we'll sit and watch how things set up. I don't think it's fair to bring Strong Contender back in 20 days in a race where you're going to have to run the race of your life to win. Bringing him back that quickly and adding weight and more distance is more of a recipe for disaster than success.
"Both Dr. Pleasure and Minister's Bid have reasons why they should improve, and I think the race sets up better for them. They've already faced the giant in the field. If they can improve and the giant falters, then you have a shot it do something. If the giant is on his game, then you're running for second or third. But both horses had to overcome an ordeal in the detention barn last time, and I feel the pace scenario sets up well for them."
Also at Saratoga, Godolphin's Discreet Cat
continued on the comeback trail, breezing five furlongs in 1:01. Assistant trainer Rick Mettee said the UAE Derby (UAE-II) winner is pointing for the Oct. 1 Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont, with a possible start before that.