When Lookin At Lucky disposed of the field in the IZOD Haskell Invitational (gr. I) earlier this month he became the unquestioned 3-year-old leader. With the Bob Baffert trainee now getting a short breather, there is a chance for the rest of the division to play catch up.
And while the winner of the Aug. 28 Shadwell Travers Stakes (gr. I) likely won’t surpass Lookin At Lucky in the rankings, the $600,000 top prize and the prestige of winning the “Mid-Summer Derby” still makes the race one of the marquee events of the year.
Post time for the Travers, one of five graded races on the Spa program, was set for 5:46 p.m. EDT.
Edward Evans’ homebred A Little Warm stamped himself as a major 3-year-old player in the July 31 Jim Dandy when he posted a 1 3/4-length victory for his first graded win. The Tony Dutrow trainee, who drew post 5, proved his ability to run nine furlongs, and now will try the added distance for the first time. The son of Stormin Fever—Minidar, by Alydar, has worked twice at Saratoga since then, including a five-furlong tune-up on Aug. 21.
Leading rider John Velazquez will keep the mount on A Little Warm, who won the one-mile Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream to begin his campaign before finishing runner-up in the Hutcheson (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II). He was held out of the Preakness (gr. I) due to bleeding a week before the race. He is 4-4-0 from nine starts overall.
“We are so looking forward to the Travers with him,” said Dutrow. “We couldn’t feel better about the horse’s ability or how he’s coming into the race.”
This will be Dutrow’s first Travers starter, while Evans will send out the favorite for the second straight year. The owner-breeder watched disappointedly in the 2009 edition when Quality Road finished third in the mud.
Owners Nicholas and Jim Brady, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin waited until the morning of the draw to decide on entering Trappe Shot in the Travers instead of the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (gr. I). The son of Tapit turned in a fine showing in his graded stakes debut in the Haskell, finishing second, three-quarters of a length in front of third-place First Dude.
Trappe Shot, the 4-1 second choice, had his breakout race two starts back in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park, drawing off late to easily win his first two-turn test. It was the last of four consecutive wins for the chestnut colt, who broke his maiden by more than 10 lengths and scored a first-level allowance by nearly 13 lengths. Alan Garcia, who has been aboard for all six of Trappe Shot’s starts, will keep the mount.
“We feel like he can get the mile and a quarter, and not too often will you be second choice in the Travers," said McLaughlin. “Both (the Travers and the King’s Bishop) are great races, we didn’t have to worry about shipping or getting our rider to go somewhere different; both races are here on the same day, so we just waited until the last minute to see everyone was going where they thought they were going."
Donald Dizney’s First Dude has hit the board in his last four starts—all grade I events—but is still eligible for first-level allowance company. Such is the story for the hard-luck son of Stephen Got Even, who has set the pace in his last three—the Preakness (runner-up), Belmont Stakes (gr. I, third), and Haskell—before being caught in the stretch. Trained by Dale Romans, First Dude has earned $562,160 from his nine starts despite have just the one win.
First Dude completed his preparations for the Travers at Churchill Downs and shipped to the Spa on Aug. 24. Ramon Dominguez will be in the saddle.
“He’s doing great,” said Romans. "He shipped in well on Tuesday and galloped perfectly over the track this morning. The post position (No. 4) is perfect. It’s a good spot; best we’ve had his past few starts.”
WinStar Farm’s Super Saver is looking to recapture the magic he had when winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on May 1 in the slop at Churchill. The Maria’s Mon colt has tired badly in his last two starts, first when finishing eighth in the Preakness and also last out when a distant fourth in the Haskell. Calvin Borel will be in the irons once again on the two-time graded stakes winner and earner of more than $1.8 million.
“The second race off the layoff is typically his best," said WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden. "We hope he learned something off the Haskell and will have a good race. He's got to step up. We'll let him do the talking. He's set up to run very, very well.”
In his racing debut last summer, Super Saver finished runner-up to Discreetly Mine in a maiden special weight contest at Saratoga.
Super Saver's trainer, Todd Pletcher, won the Travers in 2005 with Flower Alley.
Nick Zito, who won the race in 2004 with Birdstone, has three chances with Fly Down, Ice Box, and Miner's Reserve.
Richard Pell’s Fly Down will be looking to rebound from a failed run in the Jim Dandy when he finished fifth as the favorite. Fly Down was expected to take a step forward, not regress, off his runner-up finish in the June 5 Belmont Stakes and dominating score in the June 5 Dwyer (gr. II).
Like Super Saver, Robert LaPenta’s Ice Box has not run back to that form since the Derby when he finished runner-up. The son of Pulpit was eighth in the Belmont as the favorite and sixth in the Haskell. The first two races of his career came over the Saratoga main track as a juvenile, both off the board finishes. The confirmed closer will be looking for a hot pace up front.
Miner's Reserve, also owned by LaPenta, could provide that necessary early speed, as he set the pace and ran all the way around the track with A Little Warm in the Jim Dandy before falling short. It was a very good effort by the Mineshaft colt, who had not been close in his other stakes tries earlier this season. He drew the inside post this time, something Zito was not thrilled about since rider David Cohen will almost be forced to go to front with him.
“I would have preferred to be a little outside with Miner’s," he said. "It’s a tough post. We’ll see. First Dude is outside of him. Trappe Shot is outside of him. It doesn’t look too promising there, I’ll be honest with you."
Third in the Jim Dandy was Gainesway Farm and Martin Cherry’s Afleet Express. The Jimmy Jerkens trainee was beaten 2 1/2 lengths after winning the June 19 Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park in his stakes and two-turn debut. The meet’s second leading rider, Javier Castellano, will ride.
“I thought he would run well in his earlier races," Jerkens said. "The water’s a lot deeper now, but he’s doing great, and he’d better be. He’ll have to run better than he did the last time to win it, there’s no doubt about it.”
Admiral Alex, one of the three sons of Afleet Alex in the field, is making only his second career start for owner/trainer Leon Blusiewicz. He broke his maiden going nine furlongs on July 31 at Saratoga by one length under Kent Desormeaux, who will have the call again.
$1,000,000 Travers (gr. I, 5:46 p.m. EDT), 3YO, 1 1/4 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight, Odds
1. Miner's Reserve, Nicholas Zito, David Cohen, 126, 12-1
2. Trappe Shot, Kiaran McLaughlin, Alan Garcia, 126, 4-1
3. Admiral Alex, Leon J. Blusiewicz, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1
4. First Dude, Dale Romans, Ramon Dominguez, 126, 8-1
5. A Little, Warm, Anthony Dutrow, John Velazquez, 126, 7-2
6. Ice Box, Nicholas Zito, Julien Leparoux, 126, 10-1
7. Afleet Express, James Jerkens, Javier Castellano, 126, 6-1
8. Fly Down, Nicholas Zito, Jose Lezcano, 126, 8-1
9. Friend Or Foe, John Kimmel, Rajiv Maragh, 126, 15-1
10. Afleet Again, Robert E. Reid, Cornelio Velasquez, 126, 30-1
11. Super Saver, Todd Pletcher, 126, Calvin Borel, 6-1
The Horse Racing Radio Network will provide live coverage of the Travers and other stakes on the card. HRRN’s "Equine Forum" will be hosted live from Saratoga earlier in the day. HRRN president and host, Mike Penna, will be joined by analysts Jude Feld, Rolly Hoyt, Sean Clancy, and guests. The show airs 8-10 a.m. ET on WLXO 96.1 FM in Lexington, as well as on the HRRN website.
Live Travers Stakes coverage from 4-6 p.m. ET will feature pre- and post-race analysis, interviews, and the live call of the Travers, King’s Bishop (gr. I), Ballerina (gr. I), and Victory Ride (gr. III) from New York Racing Association announcer Tom Durkin.
HRRN’s afternoon race coverage can be heard on multiple HRRN affiliates across the country, and will be streamed worldwide on the HRRN website. A complete listing of affiliates is available on the HRRN site.