Mr Speaker

Mr Speaker

Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher

Mr Speaker Gets Green Light for Travers

Trainer Shug McGaughey moving forward after grade I turf winner works on main track.

Mr Speaker , winner of the Belmont Derby Invitational (gr. IT) on turf in his most recent start, has been confirmed for the $1.25 million Travers (gr. I) on the dirt after breezing Aug. 17 at Saratoga Race Course.

Phipps Stable's clocked four furlongs in :48.67 Sunday on the main track, earning a stamp of approval for the Aug. 23 Travers from Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey.

Going in company with Ragtime, Mr Speaker began the work racing one length behind and to the outside of his workmate before drawing on even terms inside the three-eighths pole. The two ran in tandem down the stretch and hit the wire as one. Mr Speaker powered clear under exercise rider Lena Lorieul during the gallop-out.

"I thought he worked very well this morning, exactly the way I wanted him to go," said McGaughey. "He did it very easily and galloped out very strong. If he comes out of it good and has a good week, then I guess we'll go (to the Travers)."

Mr Speaker, a son of Pulpit and a grandson of Hall of Famer Personal Ensign, won the Belmont Derby, a 1 1/4-mile turf race July 5, by a neck over Adelaide. The win was flattered Saturday when Adelaide won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington International Racecourse. A day earlier, Belmont Derby fourth-place finisher Gailo Chop won a group II race at Deauville in France.

Mr Speaker won the Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) on a synthetic surface in April at Keeneland. In his lone dirt start, he was seventh in the Holy Bull (gr. II) in January at Gulfstream Park. He has been training on dirt at Saratoga since the Belmont Derby.

"I just wanted to see him repeat what he's done up here all summer (in his workout today)," said McGaughey of Mr Speaker's latest drill. "I think he repeated it. I thought he worked very well, finished up well, did it all within himself."

McGaughey said he knows Mr Speaker has the class to be competitive in the 1 1/4-mile Travers, and that his performance primarily will depend on how he handles the dirt.

"It's just a matter of whether he takes to the dirt or not," said McGaughey. "He'll be fine if he takes to the dirt. You never know on the dirt when you turn their head loose and ask them run what they're going to do or if the dirt gets to hitting him. I don't think that will be a problem, but sometimes horses that like the grass when you turn their head loose get to scrambling a little bit."

Also on Sunday, Travers candidates Viva Majorca and Ulanbator each breezed on the Saratoga main track Sunday morning for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Marylou Whitney's Viva Majorca was clocked in 1:00.52, the third-fastest work of 30 horses at five furlongs. Mary Ann Charlston's Ulanbator went the same distance in 1:01.77 under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

Jockey Julien Leparoux is the regular rider for both horses. Leparoux was up for Viva Majorca's work and will ride him in the Travers, while Hernandez has the call on Ulanbator.

A bay Tiago colt, Viva Majorca most recently was fourth, beaten a length, in the 1 1/8 Curlin Stakes at Saratoga July 25. Unraced at 2, he broke his maiden in March at Gulfstream and captured a first-level allowance at Belmont Park July 2.

"Everything went to schedule this morning. No problems. Everything was perfect," Wilkes said. "The horse finished up well and galloped out strong. It was just a nice maintenance five-eighths. The horse came off the track very happy and is just very content in what he's doing."

Ulanbator is a son of Offlee Wild whose lone career victory came against older horses in a one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream March 20. He was second in the Matt Winn (gr. III) and third in the Dwyer (gr. III), before running fifth of six in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga July 26.

"It was a nice, solid work. Nothing spectacular, just a nice, solid work," Wilkes said. "I think I rode him bad last time. Julien did what I wanted, but I just think I need to adjust the tactics on him."