Morning Line: Aug. 24, Sensible

What Can You Do? - 8:00 a.m.

Nick Zito keeps an eye on his galloping horses and talks racing.

"I'd like to get the Travers over with," he says. "I think if CP West breaks like he did last time, we go to the lead. What else can you do? Helsinki will run a good race, too, but he takes back. Looks like we go to the lead."

Zito changes topics to complain about a jockey's ride on yesterday's card.

"He let himself get intimidated by Cornelio and Edgar," he says. "Instead of getting up through there to win the race, he lets them shut him off..."

Then the trainer realizes what he's saying.

"Look at me. I've got two starters in a grade one stake in front of me, and I'm talking about a $35,000 race."

Even with the Travers looming, today will be business as usual.

Tiz Interesting - 7:45 a.m.

Steve Asmussen stands at his favorite corner overlooking the Oklahoma Training Track. Asked if he has any thoughts on the Travers, he shakes his head.

"Only that I'm not in it," he says.

Tiz Wonderful had been training very well. Turned in a couple of great works. Asmussen said they were in. Travers bound. Last week, the runner scoped a little dirty. Just like that, they were out.

"Of course you'd like to win the Travers, you'd like to be in it, but you're not going to run against horses like that on antibiotics," the trainer says. "You can only work from the position you're in, and my position is to do what's best for the horse."

Jerry Bailey wanders over to talk about Asmussen's undercard runner, Forty Grams in the King's Bishop.

"I think he'll run great, but you know in this race he has to get a good trip or how he runs won't matter," Asmussen says. "He's cut out to be a good horse and I think he will be."

Bailey gets his official comments taken care of, then hangs around to talk. Kids, school, vacations, that kind of stuff.

"You been busy?" Asmussen asks.

"Depends on what you call 'busy,'" Bailey says. "I don't really consider this work 'busy,' I enjoy it. What about you?"

"I don't know," Asmussen jokes. "I'm short horses right now."

"Yeah, right," Bailey deadpans. "Down to two hundred and twenty."

And they both laugh.


California Boys - 7:30 a.m.

ESPN's Randy Moss and Jeannine Edwards stop by Bobby Frankel's stable area, where the trainer is playing host to Bob Baffert. Baffert will start E Z Warrior in the King's Bishop (gr. I), Frankel has First Defence in the same race.

"Are you okay with the number one post?" Edwards asks Baffert.

"I'm not okay with it, but I'm stuck with it," Baffert says. "What am I going to do? They already drew the race. It's what we got."

"What about First Defence?" Moss asks Frankel.

"He's been training good, he's got a good post," Frankel says. "I don't know. We'll see how it goes."

Without starters in the Travers, both trainers can afford to be relaxed. And that's about as much time as they'll spend talking about tomorrow's races. The undercard will be great, but they call it the undercard for a reason. 

Only Speedy on a Horse - 7:00 a.m.

Jorge Velasquez and his jock, Raul Rojas, putt through gate one in their golf cart. Unlike most agents, who usually ferry their jocks around, Velasquez lets Rojas drive.

Velasquez, a retired jockey and member of the Hall of Fame, won the 1978 Travers aboard Alydar in sweet vindication after losing to Affirmed by a combined total of less than 2 lengths in all threeTriple Crown classics. He retired ten years ago, worked as a racing official, became a jock's agent, still loves the race track.

Velasquez is on the run today. Gotta get the mounts. Tomorrow, we'll ask him to relate his memories of the Travers.

"Hurry up, before you run outta batteries!" someone yells.

The golf cart can't go much faster. Maybe they should find a good horse.


Stand and Pose - 6:25 a.m.

Carl Nafzger walks across Clare Court with Street Sense striding beside him. The colt is alert, but relaxed; he walks confidently, as if he owns the track. Once over the Clare Court training track, he stops and pricks his ears. Lifts his head. Looks for cameras. Definite pose.

Few photographers are out this morning, but Street Sense must stop half a dozen times before he reaches the main track. He knows people are watching him, and he wants them to see his good side.

He looks good from every side.

Trainer Ken McPeek is standing near the rail as Nafzger leads the Travers (gr. I) favorite past. McPeek trains Loose Leaf, one of the six other horses entered in Saturday's $1 million race.

"I'll be watching him close this morning, I hope you know that," McPeek jests.

"I know you are," Nafzger replies with a smile.

Street Sense stops to pose again.

"Yes, we know you're the best," someone says.

"I hope he is," Nafzger replies. "I guess tomorrow we'll find out."

Denny's Gap - 6:15 a.m.

At Clare Court, where the runners lope around the tiny oval like horses in a merry-go-round, a new sign has appeared. "Denny's gap," it reads, and that would be named after Denny the clocker, who keeps an eagle eye on the busy scene.

Denny is too busy to talk this morning. The horses fly by, one after the other. They keep him on his toes.

Denny's radio is labeled with four white stickers. Channel nine is first aid. Channel eight is security. Channel seven is morning training/clockers. The labels come in handy, but he doesn't really need them. He's got his job down pat. And when they name a gap at Saratoga after you, you must be doing something right.

Winning Always Good - 6:05 a.m.

Richard DePass, agent for Cornelio Velasquez (who is leading rider at the meet going into today's card), stops by the main gap to shoot the breeze.

"I tell you, yesterday in the stake, I was yelling for that filly to get up, I was screaming for him to go on with her," he says of his rider's mount, the fourth-place finisher in yesterday's Ballston Spa Stakes. "When Wait a While kicked in, she couldn't finish against that. But I was with a guy who hit the exacta, which made his meet. He was hi-fiving me and I said, 'Man, you've gotta stop doing that!' He had a ring on, and I'll tell you, the thing hurt. He was so excited!"

Velasquez will be aboard CP West in the Travers. Tomorrow, DePass may be doing some hard hi-fiving of his own. 

 

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