Morning Line: Aug. 23, Time Flies
Hard Spun Spins On - 8:35 a.m.
In the paddock, Larry Jones rides Hard Spun through his paces. The big colt is on the muscle, prancing and feeling good - but sound-minded, as usual. He doesn't want to stand, but he walks without much restraint. He only spooks once, heading down the chute to the main track, when a security guard steps forward and a bit of white chain flashes at the gap. He is sensible, but feeling his oats.
"The Travers was definitely something we looked at," he says, "but the more we contemplated getting to the Breeders' Cup Classic, the more it made sense to back up and come at it from a speedier side, which he definitely has. LeRoy Jolley said using a sprint race as a prep was a great way to win a classic; he won the Travers with a horse coming off a 7-furlong race, so I figure if it's good enough for him it's good enough for me."
D. Wayne Lukas pauses from his morning duties to give his view on the Travers. The well-spoken Hall of Fame trainer has, as always, an insightful opinion on the race.
"Any time a Kentucky Derby winner runs anywhere, it'll draw people, it'll draw fans," he says. "I think the last time a Derby winner won the Travers was my horse, Thunder Gulch, in 1995. So can Street Sense do it? We'll see. It's a marquee event and it's going to draw great players and it'll be a great race."
What about the longshots, Wayne?
"Anytime you run a race that pays $1 million there are going to be horses that will step up and run more than their past performances indicate they should. Sometimes they perform and sometimes they don't but it's just like the Derby or the Belmont - you have horses that may look like they don't belong. But the Travers is a fixture, it's the number one race for 3-year-olds after the Triple Crown classics, so it's always going to draw a unique supporting cast."
And Street Sense is the star?
Todd Marks, photographer for the Saratoga Special, stands near the Oklahoma Training Track with his camera ready. He is stalking Nick Zito trainee Helsinki, who is out for a morning gallop.
"I tell you, this job isn't easy," Marks remarks as he waits for the Travers starter to round the turn. "It takes forever to find a horse, you ask when it'll be out, they say '10 minutes' and it takes an hour, it's just ridiculous."
"It's hard to go against the favorite. But I spent an hour with Grasshopper yesterday, and you spend time with these horses, you start believing these crazy things, thinking maybe he could really win. He's a beautiful horse with a great disposition and I'd love to see him give Street Sense a good fight, but the fact of the matter is, at the head of the stretch I don't see another horse being able to run him down. I think the other jocks are going to try their damndest to make the race hard for him, of course. It should be a fantastic race."
Helsinki gallops by and Marks fires off a volley of shots. The horse goes by. And that's the end of Marks' morning.
Eleven more racing days to go.
Angel Cordero Jr. perches aboard a dark bay colt on the Oklahoma Training Track. They stand facing the infield, as the colt takes in the sights and sounds of the morning.
Cordero grins impishly. "Any Given Wednesday," he says.
Joe DiAngelo, agent for jockey Channing Hill, is driving his golf cart over to the barn of H.A. Jerkens, "The Chief." Along the way, he reviews the field for the Travers. His thoughts are not very insightful.
"To tell you the truth, I haven't paid much attention," he says. "If I don't ride a race, I don't follow it. I guess you have to figure Carl is a nice guy, he's paid his dues, he's been around the industry for a hundred years, so you pick him."
The Chief echoes this sentiment.
Tom Albertrani walks a set of four to the main track. He gives brief directions - gallop a half, jog a mile - and pauses to remember last year. Winning the Travers. With Bernardini.
Albertrani doesn't have a starter. He likes Street Sense for the Travers. But he promises to take a look at the Form and check back in with a solid analysis. Tips for this year's winning Travers trifecta from last year's winning trainer? We'll keep you posted.
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